Prana-Vayu 

#GS3 #Technology 

IIT Roorkee has developed a low-cost portable ventilator that can be useful for COVID-19 patients.  

  • Named ‘Prana-Vayu,’ the closed-loop ventilator is developed in collaboration with AIIMS, Rishikesh, and is equipped with state-of-the-art features. 
  • The research development on the ventilator started during the lockdown period necessitating the development of many parts like microprocessor-controlled non-return valves, solenoid valves, one-way valve, etc. using the facilities of Tinkering Laboratory, IIT Roorkee. 
  • The ventilator is based on the controlled operation of the prime mover to deliver the required amount of air to the patient.  
  • The automated process controls the pressure and flow rates in the inhalation and exhalation lines. Besides, the ventilator has feedback that can control tidal volume and breaths per minute. 

How Lifeline Udan flights are supporting India’s war against the novel Coronavirus 

#GS3 #Economy

As part of India’s war against the novel Coronavirus pandemic, the Ministry of Civil Aviation has launched “Lifeline Udan”.  

  • Under this initiative, flights are being operated for the movement of essential and medical supplies across the nation.  
  • According to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, as many as 62 Lifeline Udan flights have been operated under this initiative during the five day period from 26 March 2020 to 30 March 2020, transporting more than 15.4 tons of essential medical supplies.  
  • Out of the 62 flights, as many as 45 flights have been operated by Air India and Alliance Air.  

Take a look at some of the major steps taken by the ministry under the Lifeline Udan initiative: 

  • The flights, under Lifeline Udan, are being coordinated by a control room set up under the direct supervision of the Ministry of Civil Aviation leadership. 
  • The cargo of Lifeline Udan includes COVID-19 related medical equipment, reagents, enzymes, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), testing kits, masks, gloves as well as other accessories required by Corona Warriors. 
  • The carriers involved in this initiative include Alliance Air, Air India, Indian Air Force (IAF) and Pawan Hans. Also, Airports Authority of India (AAI), AAICLAS, AIASL, PPP airports as well as private ground handling entities are providing excellent support. Moreover, flights on a commercial basis, private carriers such as Spicejet, IndiGo and Blue Dart are operating medical cargo. 
  • The flights under Lifeline Udan are planned using a hub and spoke model. Cargo hubs have been set up at Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Bangalore. The flights connect these hubs and therefrom to different parts of India. 
  • The North East Region, island territories and the hill states are being given special focus. Lifeline Udan connects North East Region through regional hubs in Kolkata, Guwahati and Bagdogra. These, in turn, are linked to cities such as Shillong, Aizawl, Imphal, Agartala, Dibrugarh and Dimapur using helicopters and turboprops. 
  • To enable seamless coordination between various agencies, the National Informatics Centre and Ministry of Civil Aviation had developed a website for Lifeline Udan flights in a record span of three days.  
  • The newly launched website enables state governments as well as airlines to upload the details of their consignment and flight services respectively, in advance. The control room of the ministry then assigns the cargo consignments to different flights and till the consignment reaches its destination, coordinates with multiple stakeholders. No service fee is levied on the website. 
  • On the international front of this initiative, Air India has established a cargo air-bridge between China and India.  
  • To support India’s war against COVID-19, the Ministry of Civil Aviation and all aviation stakeholders will be transporting essential medical supplies by air in the most efficient, seamless as well as cost-effective manner. 

CAWACH 

#GS3 #Science #Technology 

Department of Science & Technology, Government of India in a rapid response to combat COVID-19 global pandemic approved setting up of a Centre for Augmenting WAR with COVID-19 Health Crisis (CAWACH) at a total cost of Rs 56 Cr to scout, evaluate and support the innovations and start-ups that address COVID-19 challenges.  

  • The Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SINE), a technology business incubator at IIT Bombay supported by DST has been identified as the Implementing Agency of the CAWACH. 
  • The CAWACH’s mandate will be to extend timely support to potential startups by way of the requisite financial assistance and fund deployment targeting innovations that are deployable in the market within next 6 months. 
  • CAWACH will identify upto 50 innovations and startups that are in the area of novel, low cost, safe and effective ventilators, respiratory aids, protective gears, novel solutions for sanitizers, disinfectants, diagnostics, therapeutics, informatics and any effective interventions to control COVID-19. 
  • It will provide access to pan India networks for testing, trial and market deployment of these products and solutions in the identified areas of priority COVID-19 solutions. This will help to address various challenges faced by country due to severe impact of Covid-19. 

Gandhians to observe fast 

#GS4 

  • Moved by the plight of migrant workers who walked several kilometres to reach their homes and were left hungry on the way during the COVID-19 lockdown, hundreds of Gandhians across the country have decided to observe April 10 as “national fasting day.” 
  • The day-long fast is to “atone the sins committed on migrant labourers after the lockdown was announced”, said theatre and social activist Prasanna. 
  • The national fasting day call has been given by the Gram Seva Sangha. “The day will see participants introspect what has gone wrong in the current system and how to improve the village economy,” he said. 
  • There will be no meetings or gatherings to mark the day, but it would be observed by participants “wherever they are and whatever they are doing. 

About Gram Seva Sangh 

  • Gram Seva Sangh is a federation of the constructive work organizations of India. It acts as a bridge between the citizen in the city and the constructive work in the village. 
  • This bridge helps the citizen to make contact with, and learn from the village; in things such as simple living, working with ones’s own hands and nature. In turn the Sangh helps the village constructive organisations, with a market for their ‘hand’ produce, training in building equitable systems and organizations.  
  • To put simply, it is a bridge to transport good Things from both ends and a Constructive Programme to shed bad qualities at both ends.  
  • Gram Seva Sangh is a group of like-minded individuals willing to participate in dialogues and activities that intend to bridge the widening gap that exists between the cities and villages. 

Double ration sought for tribal families 

#GS2 #Governance 

  • The COVID-19 lockdown has had little effect on tribal communities living on the outskirts of Nagarahole National Park and elsewhere in Mysuru region. For, they receive ration through the tribal development schemes launched by the Government of India.  
  • Each tribal family receives 60 eggs, a 500 gm sachet of Nandini ghee, one litre edible oil and cereals under the tribal development scheme of the Centre. This is in addition to free rice under the Anna Bhagya scheme of the State government. 
  • Sreekanth, founder of Development through Education (DEED), an NGO working for tribal empowerment, said because of the lockdown, anganwadi kendras have been shut and children are eating at home while the menfolk are also at home due to lack of work. 
  • Therefore, the government should double the ration till the crisis abates, he added. There are nearly 10,000 Adivasi families in the district, including the Soligas, Yaravas, Jenu Kurubas, and Betta Kurubas. 

Nagarhole National Park 

  • Nagarhole National Park is a national park located in Kodagu district and Mysore district in Karnataka, India. It is one of India's premier Tiger Reserves along with the adjoining Bandipur Tiger Reserve. 
  • This park was declared the thirty seventh Project Tiger, Tiger reserves of India in 1999. It is part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.  
  • The Western Ghats Nilgiri Sub-Cluster of 6,000 km2 (2,300 sq mi), including all of Nagarhole National Park, is under consideration by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee for selection as a World Heritage Site. 
  • The park has rich forest cover, small streams, hills, valleys and waterfalls. The park has a healthy predator-prey ratio, with many tigers, Gaur, elephants, Indian leopards, and deer(Chital, Sambar, etc.). 

TIFR, IISc. launch multi-lingual website for credible content on COVID-19 

#GS3 #SocialAwareness 

‘CovidGyan’ to deal with the infodemic 

  • At a time when a torrent of information on COVID-19 is being generated and spread from all corners of the world, a multi-institutional multi-lingual science communication initiative — CovidGyan — has been launched to deal with the information overload 
  • The initiative is the brainchild of Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), the Indian Institute of Science (IISc.) and the Tata Memorial Centre (TMC).  
  • An outcome of this is the launch of the CovidGyan website to serve as a source of scientifically credible content related to COVID-19 related content. 

Holistic perspective 

  • Satyajit Mayar, director of the National Centre for Biological Sciences, said that NCBS houses the expertise, knowledge and experience in studying all scales of biology, from viruses to ecosystems that humans inhabit.  
  • Their effort at the time of COVID crisis would be to provide a holistic perspective on the situation people are in and seek appropriate solutions for the resolution of the crisis. 

Kerala police come to the aid of starving herons 

#GS3 #Environment #Ecosystem 

They buy fish to feed the birds that live along the coast 

  • With stories about bird flu doing the rounds, personnel at the Neendakara coastal police station here were alarmed when they spotted several blue herons lying on the ground. 
  • They alerted the Animal Husbandry Department, and an autopsy held at District Veterinary Centre revealed the cause of death as starvation.  
  • Since Sakthikulangara and Neendakara harbours are among the few avian-rich sites in Kerala, they are home to hundreds of fish-eating species, including storks, egrets, cormorants, and herons.  
  • But the recent fishing restrictions, along with the ban on auctions at harbours, impacted their main food source. When the coastal police found the birds famished, they decided to step in. 

Coastal ecosystem 

  • According to the Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) 2019, the harbour area has a very high count of little egrets. While some birds go in search of food to other places, some species like blue herons can hardly survive outside the coastal ecosystem.  
  • They live on the seashore eating discards from boats. But with trawlers lying idle and only a handful of traditional fishers venturing into the sea, they were struggling. They were collapsing and stray dogs were preying on them. 

42% of patients between 21 & 40 years 

Death toll rises to 75 in India with 2,904 cases, ICMR gives nod for rapid, antibody-based testing 

  • About 42% of those confirmed positive for COVID-19 in India are between the ages of 21-40 years old, the Union Health Ministry, for the first time throwing light on the demography of the disease in India. Only 17% of those testing positive were over 60. 
  • By comparison, data from the U.S. Centres for Disease Control said 29% of those affected were in the 20-44 age group and 32% were above 60.  
  • India recorded 2,904 cases and 75 deaths as on Saturday compared to the 2,79,355 cases and 7,451 deaths in the United States. 
  • The death toll from the outbreak, according to data from State Health Departments, rose to 103 with Maharashtra reporting the maximum at 32.  
  • The most number of active cases were also reported from Maharashtra at 551, followed by Tamil Nadu with 476 and Delhi with 431 of the total 3,196 cases. 

Quick results 

  • As the number of cases continued to rise, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) issued an advisory to start rapid antibody based blood tests in areas reporting clusters and in large migration gatherings or evacuee centres.  
  • The results of such tests will be available in 15-30 minutes. 
  • The Health Ministry said nearly 30% of the cases were linked to last month’s Tablighi Jamaat meet in Delhi. 

Study lists 69 existing drugs to target novel coronavirus 

#GS3 #Science 

Nearly 100 scientists worldwide collaborated for it 

  • In a breathtaking feat, nearly 100 scientists from across the globe worked together to study the genes of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and have published a list of drugs that can be repurposed to treat COVID-19.  
  • The proteins of the virus must attach to the human proteins to cause the infection. The team studied 26 coronavirus genes that help in the production of these proteins.  
  • It also studied human proteins and found 332 SARS-CoV-2 and human protein interactions. The team then listed 67 human proteins that can be targeted by 69 drugs to fight the infection.  
  • When the virus invades the cells, it hijacks the cells’ molecular machinery to replicate itself because it cannot do this on its own.  
  • The drugs we have identified may be able to inhibit these molecular machines so that the virus can no longer use them for its own survival. 

Familiar names 

  • The list includes unexpected candidates such as entacapone used to treat Parkinson’s disease.  
  • Another is the antiviral medication named ribavirin, which was administered to Nipah patients in Kerala during the 2018 outbreak.  
  • Chloroquine, an antimalarial drug, and metformin, used to treat diabetes, are also there. 

Coronavirus: TCS uses AI for drug discovery 

#GS3 #Science&Technology 

The researchers have identified 31 candidate molecules to target the main protease which helps the virus replicate 

  • Scientists from TCS Innovation Labs in Hyderabad are harnessing the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to identify new molecules which might have the potential to target specific parts of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2).  
  • Using new methods, they have identified 31 candidate small molecules, which may serve as inhibitors of the chymotrypsin-like protease, one of the key drug targets in the fight against COVID-19. 

Target proteins 

  • The genome of the novel coronavirus codes for several proteins that have crucial roles in entry of the virus into the host cell, its replication, assembly and host-pathogen interactions.  
  • Some of these proteins that help the virus perform its functions are common targets for drug developers.  
  • Among these drug targets are the spike protein, which helps the virus attach itself to the host cell and enter it, and viral proteases which help it replicate. 

Role of viral protease 

  • The viral RNA synthesises two long polyproteins when it infects human cells via a human cell surface protein.  
  • The role of the protease protein is to cut the polyproteins to individual proteins, so that new viruses can be assembled. This is important for its replication and survival.  
  • The chymotrypsin-like protease or the main protease primarily does the function of cleaving the polyprotein into proteins and the papain-like protease also aids in this process. The former was chosen as the drug target by the group for their research. 

First, using a database of approximately 1.6 million drug-like small molecules from the ChEMBL database, the researchers trained the generative deep neural network model. As a second step, the network was re-trained with protease inhibitor molecules. This was done with a view to narrow the focus of the neural network on to a smaller subset of the chemical space. 

Centre tweaks rules to make inactive accounts functional 

#GS3 #Schemes #Economy 

Aims to ensure cash transfer under COVID-19 relief reaches beneficiaries 

  • The Finance Ministry has tweaked prevention of money laundering (PML) norms with the aim to make all inoperative accounts functional so that cash transfers by the government under the COVID-19 relief package can reach beneficiaries. 
  • In a communique to banks, the Department of Financial Services has conveyed that in respect of the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana accounts, basic savings account and small accounts, those accounts which have become inoperative due to various reasons — including non-completion of know your customer (KYC) requirements or updation — rules have been amended with an aim ‘to avoid any difficulty caused to poor people and beneficiaries of PM-GKY [Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana]’. 
  • As a part of the PMGKY scheme, the government has decided to transfer ₹500 per month for three months to the poor and vulnerable sections of the society whose livelihood has been impacted due to the nationwide lockdown. Accounts that may have become dysfunctional due to non-operation in the account for the last two years have also been made functional. 

Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, 2016 (PMGKY) 

  • Is an amnesty scheme launched by the Narendra Modi led Government of India in December 2016 on the lines of the Income declaration scheme, 2016(IDS) launched earlier in the year.  
  • A part of the Taxation Laws(Second Amendment) Act 2016, the scheme provides an opportunity to declare unaccounted wealth and black money in a confidential manner and avoid prosecution after paying a fine of 50% on the undisclosed income.  
  • An additional 25% of the undisclosed income is invested in the scheme which can be refunded after four years, without any interest.  
  • Valid from December 16, 2016 to March 31, 2017, the scheme can only be availed to declare income in the form of cash or bank deposits in Indian bank accounts and not in the form of jewellery, stock, immovable property, or deposits in overseas accounts.  

Refiners to halve crude import 

#GS3 #Economy 

Sliding demand results in a huge increase in inventories 

  • Indian refiners — from Indian Oil Corporation (IOCL) to Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) — are looking to cut down their crude oil imports for April by as much as 50%, even as the oil firms have offers to buy crude at $20 a barrel or even less.  
  • The reason? All their storage capacities are full and refining need not be done at full capacity due to the over- 50% fall in petrol and diesel sales and the nil sales of aviation turbine fuel (ATF).  
  • IOCL has already written to west Asian suppliers citing ‘force majeure’ clause as its petrol sales have fallen 54% and diesel sales by 63% after the government announced a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19. 
  • IOCL, which owns about a third of India’s 5 million barrels per day (bpd) refining capacity, has reduced its refining capacity by a third as demand for petroleum products has declined substantially. The demand for ATF has also come down sharply due to suspension of flights. 
  • HPCL and Mangalore Refineries and Petrochemicals Limited have also reduced their refining capacities and cut crude oil imports. 
  • According to IOCL, the uplift of finished products from refineries in the last one week has helped upcountry bulk storage locations of the corporation build up stocks for future-readiness, once the lockdown is lifted and the demand picks up again. 

Kabul gurdwara attack ‘mastermind’ arrested 

Afghan Special Forces detained ISKP chief Mawlawi Aslam Farooqi in a ‘complex operation’ 

  • Afghanistan’s Special Forces on Saturday arrested Mawlawi Aslam Farooqi, a Pakistani national and the emir (chief) of the Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP), the group that claimed the March 25 attack on a gurdwara in Kabul that killed 27 people, including an Indian. 
  • Confirming the arrest, an Afghanistan official said on Saturday that the ISKP has strong links with “regional intelligence agencies”, hinting at a Pakistani hand in the terror group’s operation. 

ISI link 

  • Farooqi was a small time militant commander who was active in Pakistan’s Khyber area. His rise in the ISKP leadership was made possible by the ISI. 
  • The gurdwara attack in Kabul was executed by a 29-year-old man from Kerala’s Kasargod — Muhammed Muhsin.  
  • He stormed into the gurdwara along with two others. As reported earlier, there are indications that another Indian — Sajid Kuthirummal, a shopkeeper from Kasargod who was among a group of 21 people who left India in 2016 to join the ISKP — could also have been part of the terror plot. 
  • Mushin was killed in the encounter and the whereabouts of Sajid are not known yet. 
  • A July 25, 2019 report published by a UN monitoring team said that Farooqi had replaced ISIL-Khorasan leader Mawlawi Zia ul-Haq in April the same year, referring to another acronym of the IS. 
  • In April, ISIL-K leader Mawlawi Zia ul-Haq, also known as Abu Omar Khorasani, was dismissed and replaced by Mawlawi Aslam Farooqi, who was previously in charge of operations in the Khyber Agency.  
  • Ul-Haq’s demotion was reportedly due to poor performance in the context of ISIL-K setbacks in Nangarhar in the second half of 2018.  
  • The new leadership nomination was made during a visit by an ISIL core delegation, underscoring the direct relationship between ISIL-K and the ISIL core in Iraq and Syria. 
  • There are other reports which said the leadership changed in 2018 after differences between Pashtun fighters led by Farooqi and ul-Haq’s group comprising fighters from Central Asian countries. 

Bhilwara enforces ‘all down curfew’ 

#GS3 #Science 

  • Determined to snap the chain of COVID-19 transmission, authorities in Rajasthan’s Bhilwara have now imposed an aggressive 11-day-long “all down curfew” with even essential services being severely curtailed. 
  • The textile city, which had emerged as the State’s first hotspot for COVID-19 infections a fortnight ago, appears to have had a measure of success in containing the spread of the virus, with only one positive case detected during the last four days, and 17 of the 27 infected persons having recovered after treatment. 
  • The containment efforts, which included an indefinite curfew that was imposed on March 20 even before the nationwide lockdown began, has had some tangible impact. 
  • The infection had initially spread in Brijesh Bangar Memorial Hospital, a private hospital which has since been sealed. 
  • While all curfew passes issued since March 20, were cancelled and the district’s borders sealed, a 3,000-strong police force, along with the home guards and the State Disaster Response Force personnel, were enforcing the curfew which started on 3rd March. 

Lights-off event will not harm grid: Ministry 

#GS #Governance 

Arrangements in place to handle variation in demand, it says 

  • India’s power grid is likely to come to no harm on account of the mass switching off of electric lights on Sunday, the Power Ministry has said in a statement. 
  • It said the electricity grid was “robust and stable”, and adequate arrangements and protocols were in place to handle the variation in demand. 

Only residential lights 

  • It said the call was not to switch off street lights or computers, television sets, fans, refrigerators and air conditioners. Only lights should be switched off, but not except in hospitals and other essential services such as public utilities, municipal services, offices, police stations, manufacturing facilities. 
  • To dispel the “deep darkness” that the pandemic had wrought, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday exhorted Indians to switch off their residential lights at 9 p.m. on Sunday and light candles or flash their phone-lights in the following nine minutes. 
  • Power companies say a sudden dip and then a spike in supply could threaten the stability of the grid and may cause some of them to trip. 
  • Power System Operation Corporation (Posoco) Ltd, a public sector company in charge of managing the grid load, said it expected a 12-13 GW (1 gigawatt is 1,000 megawatt) dip and a subsequent surge in 17 minutes. 

20% down 

  • With the lockdown in force, power suppliers across India are already grappling with a 20% dip in demand.  
  • An instability in the grid would wobble the frequency range at which electricity flows and threaten an outage. 
  • In an advisory, Posoco described the anticipated fluctuation in demand as “unprecedented” and would need hydro and gas resources to help the grid retain its stability. 
  • The method of management would be a phased reduction in gas- and hydro generation from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at inter-State generating stations and then a ramping up from 9:10 onwards, according to the note.
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