PM: on Sunday, light lamps for 9 minutes from 9 p.m. 

#GS2 #Governance 

He calls for demonstration of collective will to fight virus 

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked the countrymen to demonstrate a collective will to fight coronavirus, a token demonstration of which, he said, would be to light candles, lamps and hold mobile phone torches for nine minutes from 9 p.m. on April 5. 
  • In an address to the nation, he noted, “There is no bigger force than our conviction and resolve. There is nothing we cannot achieve with these forces.” 

‘We are not alone’ 

  • The plight of the poor, with the grinding halt of all economic activity, was also foremost in the Prime Minister’s speech. “We have to take our poor brethren towards the light and certainty. To defeat this darkness, we have to shine the light in every direction,” he said. 
  • Mr. Modi acknowledged that being under a lockdown could be a lonely experience full of anxiety and assured the people that “we, none of us, are alone” and that the “collective will of 1.3 billion people of India was with us in this time of crisis”. 
  • As his earlier exhortation to applaud essential services workers during the Janata Curfew of March 22 saw instances of mass gatherings in some parts of the country, Mr. Modi made it a point to say that nobody should repeat it. 

NSA to be filed against 6 for harassing nurses 

#GS2 #Acts 

The Uttar Pradesh government has said that six persons associated with the Tablighi Jamaat who have been accused of misbehaving with women staff at the district hospital in Ghaziabad will be charged under the National Security Act (NSA). 

About: 

  • The National Security Act of 1980 is an act of the Indian Parliament promulgated on 23 September, 1980 whose purpose is "to provide for preventive detention in certain cases and for matters connected therewith".  
  • The act extends to the whole of India. It Contains 18 sections.  
  • This act empowers the Central Government and State Governments to detain a person to prevent him/her from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of India, the relations of India with foreign countries, the maintenance of public order, or the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the community it is necessary so to do. 
  • The act also gives power to the governments to detain a foreigner in a view to regulate his presence or expel from the country.  
  • The act was passed in 1980 during the Indira Gandhi Government. 

SC calls for quick end to Kerala-Karnataka border row 

#GS2 #Justice 

Patients seeking treatment in Mangaluru denied access 

  • The Supreme Court on Friday ordered the Centre, Kerala and Karnataka to confer immediately and “formulate parameters for passage of patients for urgent medical treatment at the interstate border at Talapadi”.  
  • The court, meanwhile, issued formal notice on an appeal filed by Karnataka against the Kerala High Court order of April 1 allowing patients to cross the border for treatment 
  • Karnataka has argued that the blockade was in the interest of public health. The situation regarding coronavirus was “really dire”, it said.  
  • Karnataka has warned that opening the blockade would cause a law and order issue as the local population wanted the border to remain sealed. 

Open pet shops, save animals: HC 

#GS2 #AnimalWelfare 

Asks State to identify NGOs to feed strays 

  • The Karnataka High Court on Friday directed the State government to instruct all Deputy Commissioners of districts to ensure immediate opening of all pet shops to ascertain conditions and the plight of pets in these shops and provide food and medicine in cooperation with the State Animal Welfare Board. 
  • The district magistrate, who heads the district Societies for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCAs), will also have to identify suitable NGOs to feed stray animals that are not getting food for survival due to the lockdown, the HC directed. 
  • The State authorities will initiate immediate steps as the Animal Welfare Board of India on March 24, 2020, had already issued a communication to the State Chief Secretaries to protect animals during the lockdown. 
  • The authorities will also have to take measures to evacuate animals from pet shops to ensure proper food and medicine for the animals till the arrangement for opening pet shops are made. 
  • On identifying NGOs to feed stray animals, the Bench said the district administration will have to take measures to provide passes to the select representatives of such NGOs for feeding stray animals. 

ASHA workers 

#GS2 #WomenWelfare 

Police arrested five youths, all residents of Sarayi Palya, for the assault on Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) workers who had gone to the locality  to conduct a COVID-19.  

Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA): 

  • Is a community health worker instituted by the government of India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW).  
  • The mission began in 2005; full implementation was targeted for 2012. Once fully implemented, there is to be "an ASHA in every village" in India, a target that translates into 250,000 ASHAs in 10 states.  
  • The grand total number of ASHAs in India was reported in July 2013 to be 870,089. There are 859,331 ASHAs in 32 states and union territories as per the data provided by the states in December 2014.  
  • This excludes data from the states of Himachal Pradesh, Goa, Puducherry, and Chandigarh, since the selection of ASHA is under way in these states. 

Key components of ASHA: 

  • ASHA must primarily be a woman resident of the village married/ widowed/ divorced, preferably in the age group of 25 to 45 years. 
  • She should be a literate woman, qualified up to 10 standard. 
  • ASHA will have to undergo series of training to acquire the necessary knowledge, skills and confidence for performing her spelled out roles. 

Tremors in Mysuru, Hassan 

#GS3 #Environment 

A tremor of 2.6 magnitude was recorded in the region bordering Mysuru and Hassan districts on 3rd March evening. 

  • Tremor means Earthquakes in geographic term.  
  • The epicentre of the mild seismic activity lay between K.R. Nagar in Mysuru district and Arkalgud in Hassan district.  
  • The tremor was recorded at 5.18 p.m., describing the seismic activity as a “micro-tremor”.  
  • Tremors with a magnitude of less than 3 on the Richter scale do not cause any problems. It happens only on account of some readjustment taking place in the crust.  
  • It may not create a big displacement. 

Questions over foreign donations for PM-CARES 

#GS3 #Economy 

Income, expenditure details unknown 

  • Initially, Indian ambassadors were directed to mobilise donations from abroad, with SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) code details made available in order to accept such contributions.  
  • However, the Centre has now seemed to take a step back, indicating that foreign funds would be accepted only from individuals and foundations, with details of foreign donations unavailable for now.  
  • The PM-CARES Fund also does not seem to have any website with details of objectives, income and expenditure as yet, raising concerns about its transparency and accountability. 

 Public charitable trust 

  • PM-CARES is a public charitable trust launched on March 28 as a dedicated national fund with the primary objective of dealing with any kind of emergency or distress situation, like the one posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Lockdown lifts Delhi’s air quality to a 5-year high 

#GS3 #Environment 

CPCB data shows pollution fell with cities recording a ‘good’ on AQI 

  • The ongoing lockdown has pushed pollution levels in Delhi to a 5-year low and, across India, the number of cities that recorded ‘good’ on the air quality index (AQI) jumped from 6 — on March 16 — to 30 as on March 29, according to data from the Central Pollution Control Board. 
  • PM 2.5 the most dangerous pollutant had ranged from 72-187g/m³ during the corresponding period last year, and 72-171g/m³ in 2018. It wasn’t possible to compare the air quality index, which is a weighted average of the contribution of several pollutants, in this week from that in previous years, as such data wasn’t available on the website. 

Janata curfew report 

  • The key factor that triggered the decline was the number of on-road vehicles, which contributed to a 51% reduction in NOx levels and a 32% reduction in carbon monoxide levels during March 22-23 as compared to March 21. 
  • Unlike in the winter months, Delhi and other regions of the Indo Gangetic Plains generally tend to have better air quality in March, aided by consistent wind and sunlight, which help flush out pollutants.  
  • Research studies have attributed the key sources of PM2.5 in summer to be: dust and construction activities (35%), transport sector (20%) and industry (20%). 

Lockdown effect 

  • During the lockdown PM10 and PM2.5 levels were reduced by about 35-40%. 
  • The cessation of industries contributed to this reduction by 10%, vehicles 10-15% and dust another 10-15%, the organisation calculated.

IIT-Roorkee develops ventilator 

#GS3 #Technology 

Amid the growing demand for hospital ventilators due to the COVID-19 pandemic, IIT-Roorkee has developed a low-cost portable ventilator in association with AIIMS-Rishikesh, which can be manufactured for just ₹25,000. 

  • On Friday, the machine was presented to more than 450 companies and several have expressed interest in commercial production, IIT-Roorkee said.  
  • Named ‘Prana-Vayu,’ the closed-loop ventilator can deliver the required amount of air to the patient, with an automated process controlling the pressure and flow rates.  

States get ₹11,092 crore for COVID-19 

#GS3 #WelfareFunds 

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), approved the release of ₹11,092 crore under the State Disaster Risk Management Fund (SDRMF) to all the States to take measures for containment of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

  • The funds were allocated to the States on the recommendation of the 15th Finance Commission. 
  • Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot suggested to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday that the Centre release ₹1 lakh crore to tackle the pandemic and the ramifications of the 21-day nationwide lockdown. 
  • Following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s videoconference with Chief Ministers, “the Central Government has released in advance its share of the first instalment of SDRMF for the year 2020-21, amounting to ₹11,092 crore, to augment funds available with the State governments,” a statement by the MHA said. 
  • Maharashtra which has reported the highest number of cases has been allocated ₹1611 crore. Kerala with a higher number of cases, however, has been allocated ₹157 crore, lower than most States, including Uttar Pradesh which gets ₹966 crore, Odisha ₹802 crore, Rajasthan ₹740 crore, Bihar ₹708 crore, Gujarat ₹662 crore and Madhya Pradesh ₹910 crore. 
  • The SDRF is the primary fund available with the States to meet the expenditure of immediate relief to the victims of disasters. 

Life turns turtle for MSMEs as lockdown chokes 

#GS3 #Economy 

Transporting men, machines and materials under strict curbs tests the sinews of enterprises located in smaller cities 

  • The lockdown ordered to stem the spread of COVID-19 has swept over millions of small and medium enterprises in tier-2 and -3 cities and across India like a tsunami. 
  • Moving people and machines to facilitate work- from-home (WFH) options became a daunting task for many, as per industry executives of some mid-tier firms who narrate their harrowing experience. 
  • The situation was in stark contrast with the promises of many State governments that vie with each other to attract investments to small cities in their regions. 

Not enough time 

  • Certain mid-tier firms are of the opinion that the lockdown came upon them all of a sudden though the government would have been contemplating it at least a few days before it’s introduction. 
  • Udupi-based Robosoft Technologies, a UX and UI application development and digital advisory firm, too, said small firms had suffered huge disruptions after the lockdown.  

CII acts 

  • Realising the gravity of the situation, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) sprang into action.  
  • It met the respective State governments and industries departments to chalk out ways to ensure business continuity for the entire MSME (micro, small and medium enterprises) community in the country.  
  • The CII has urged all enterprises, which are still suffering connectivity or business continuity issues, to reach out to the industry association for assistance. 

Rice exports halted on supply chain disruption due to virus 

#GS2 #InternationalRelations #Exports 

Thailand seizes opportunity, inflates global prices 

  • Indian rice traders have stopped signing new export contracts amid the nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19, as labour shortages and logistics disruptions have hampered the delivery of even existing contracts, industry officials said. 
  • The halt in exports from the world’s biggest exporter is allowing rival countries such as Thailand to raise shipments in the short term and lift global prices, forcing millions of poor consumers in Africa to pay high prices. 
  • India’s export volumes have fallen by four to five times, said Prem Garg, chairman of the Lal Mahal Group, which exports rice to more than 44 countries.  
  • About 400,000 tonnes of non-basmati rice and 1,00,000 tonnes of basmati rice, meant for March-April delivery, are either stuck at ports or in the pipeline due to the lockdown, exporters said.  
  • New Delhi mainly exports non-basmati rice to Bangladesh, Nepal, Benin and Senegal, and premium basmati rice to Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.   
  • As Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar curbed their rice exports, demand for Indian rice surged, but traders are not signing new contracts, said Nitin Gupta, vice-president of trader Olam India’s rice business. 

Brent surges past $33 on output deal hope 

#GS3 

OPEC, allies working on unprecedented 10% reduction in global oil production 

  • Benchmark Brent crude oil futures climbed to as high as $34.91 a barrel on Friday on rising hopes of a new global deal to cut global crude supply. 
  • Brent crude futures were up 12.9%, or $3.9, at $33.83 a barrel by 6.51 p.m. IST. Brent soared as much as 47% on Thursday for its highest intraday percentage gain on record. It had closed up 21%. 
  • U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude rose 8.8%, or $2.23, to $27.55 after jumping 24.7% on Thursday. 
  • OPEC and its allies are working on a deal for an unprecedented production cut of about 10% of global supply, an OPEC source said. 
  • Oil prices slumped 65% in the first quarter on a demand slump caused by the global COVID-19 outbreak and moves by Russia and Saudi Arabia to flood the market after their failure last month to extend much smaller OPEC+ supply cuts. 

OPEC+ to meet 

  • A meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies such as Russia, a grouping known as OPEC+, has been scheduled for Monday, the Azerbaijan Energy Ministry said, but details on the distribution of production cuts were thin on the ground.  
  • U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday that he had spoken with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and they had agreed to reduce supplies by 10 million to 15 million barrels per day (bpd) out of total global supply of about 100 million bpd. 
  • Mr. Trump said he did not make any concessions, such as agreeing to a U.S. production cut — a move forbidden by U.S. anti-trust legislation. 

Trump-Putin meet 

  • Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin are due to meet with their respective country's top oil producers on Friday. 
  • Russia and Saudi Arabia both belong to OPEC+, but the United States does not. 
  • “It does appear that momentum is growing for some form of output agreement,” said analyst Harlan Matthews at Redburn Energy. 
  • “(But) there are huge obstacles to any output agreement on this scale, and even if it were to be implemented the market would remain chronically oversupplied in the near term.”

In lockdown, the laws that come into play 

#GS2 #Laws #Governance 

During the lockdown, Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code has been widely invoked against those not following it.  

  • In a communication to the states on March 24, the Home Ministry said persons violating the containment measures will be liable to be punished under provisions of the Disaster Management Act 2005, besides Section 188 IPC.  
  • A look at these and related provisions: 

For disobedience 

  • Section 188 IPC deals with those disobeying an order passed by a public servant, and provides for imprisonment ranging from one to six months.  
  • For those violating orders passed under the Epidemic Diseases Act, Section 188 IPC is the provision under which punishment is awarded. 
  • Section 51 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 provides for punishment for two kinds of offences: obstructing any officer or employee of the government or person authorised by any disaster management authority for discharge of a function; and refusing to comply with any direction given by the authorities under the Act.  
  • Punishment can extend to one year on conviction, or two years if the refusal leads to loss of lives or any imminent danger. 

For spreading fear 

  • Section 505 IPC provides for imprisonment of three years or fine, or both, for those who publish or circulate anything which is likely to cause fear or alarm.  
  • Section 54 of the Disaster Management Act provides for imprisonment, extending to one year, of those who make or circulate a false alarm or warning regarding a disaster or its severity or magnitude. 

For false claim to aid 

  • Under Section 52, Disaster Management Act, whoever makes a false claim for obtaining “any relief, assistance, repair, reconstruction or other benefits” from any official authority can be sentenced to a maximum of two years imprisonment and a fine will be imposed on the person. 

For refusing to do duties 

  • In case of refusal or withdrawal of any officer who has been tasked with any duty under the Act, the officer can be sentenced to imprisonment extending to one year.  
  • However, those who have written permission of the superior or any lawful ground are exempt from such punishment.  
  • A case cannot be initiated without the explicit sanction from the state or central government. 

For refusing to help

  • Any authorised authority under the Act can requisite resources like persons and material resources, premises like land or building, or sheds and vehicles for rescue operations.  
  • Though there is a provision for compensation under the Act, any person who disobeys such an order can be sentenced to imprisonment up to one year. 

Legal shield 

  • For any offence under the Disaster Management Act, a court will take cognisance only if the complaint is filed by the national or state or district authority, or the central or state government.  
  • However, there is another provision: if a person has given notice of 30 days or more about an alleged offence, and about his intention to file a complaint, he or she can approach the court which can then take cognisance. 

The Act protects government officers and employees from any legal process for actions they took “in good faith”. Under the Epidemic Diseases Act too, no suit or other legal proceedings can lie against any person for anything done or intended to be done under good faith. 

PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPE) 

#GS2 #Health 

Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has developed a bio suit to keep the medical, paramedical and other personnel engaged in combating COVID-19 safe from the deadly virus. 

About: 

  • DRDO has developed this Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) having specific type of fabric with coating.  
  • The DRDO has prepared a special sealant as an alternative to seam sealing tape based on the sealant used in submarine applications. 
  • Presently, bio suits prepared using this glue for seam sealing by an industry partner has cleared test at Southern India Textile Research Association (SITRA) Coimbatore. 
  • This can be a game changer for the textile industry. The DRDO can mass produce this glue through industry to support the seam sealing activity by suit manufacturers.  
  • M/s Kusumgarh Industries is producing the raw material, coating material, with the complete suit being manufactured with the help of another vendor.
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