IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


10th April, 2020


1. Ahmedabad adopts South Korean model


-As COVID-19 cases surge, Ahmadabad is battling to contain the spread of the pandemic with intensive surveillance and aggressive testing to detect the maximum number of cases of infected people, and isolate them to curtail further spread of the disease and break the chain of transmission.

-The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) has now adopted the South Korean model of enhanced testing to ascertain the scale of the epidemic in the city of 6.5 million people.

-Along with aggressive testing, the civic body has hardened social distancing measures by strictly regulating goings and comings in the entire walled city area, from where the maximum number of cases has emerged.

The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) has identified 14 clusters or hotspots where intensive surveillance, mass testing and contact tracing of infected persons will be carried out with enhanced focus.




2. Coronavirus | ₹15,000 crores sanctioned to States


-Central Government has announced that ₹15,000 crores has been sanctioned to States under the India COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health System Preparedness Package.

-The 100% centrally funded scheme will be utilised for immediate COVID-19 Emergency Response (amount of ₹7774 crores) and rest for medium-term support (1-4 years). This is to be provided under a mission mode approach. 


Key objectives of the package include mounting emergency response to slow and limit COVID-19 in India through the development of diagnostics and dedicated treatment facilities.

-States are expected to use this money for centralised procurement of essential medical equipment and drugs required for treatment of infected patients, strengthen and build health systems to support prevention and preparedness for future disease outbreaks, setting up of laboratories and bolster surveillance activities, bio-security preparedness, pandemic research and proactively engage communities and conduct risk communication activities.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/coronavirus-15000-crore-sanctioned-to-states/article31300729.ece


3. Kejriwal launches ‘Operation SHIELD’ against COVID­19


The Delhi government will carry out ‘Operation SHIELD’ at 21 locations identified as containment zones in the Capital.


What is Operation SHIELD?

It includes sealing, identifying and quarantining people in containment zones, doorstep delivery of essential items and door-to-door checking of people in those areas, will be undertaken by the Delhi government.


Operation SHIELD

S for sealing of the immediate area after geographical marking,

H for home quarantine of all in the area,

I for isolation and tracing of people who have been first and second contacts,

E for essential supplies, which involves doorstep delivery of essential items to the people,

L for local sanitisation and disinfection of those areas, and

D for door-to-door checking so that people having symptoms of COVID-19 are isolated and testing can be done after taking samples.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/kejriwal-launches-operation-shield-against-covid-19/article31303631.ece


4. Charting a Common Minimum Relief Programme in times of pandemic


This week, India shall enter the last declared days of the lockdown and start preparations for the resumption, in some form or the other of daily life that is expected to follow.

-It is imperative that the government publishes and executes a road map that provides forward guidance and economic clarity to the middle class, medium and small-scale enterprises and above all, to those at the very margins of society.

Way forward: A Common Minimum Relief Programme

—First, daily wage earners, labourers and migrant workers are at the greatest risk of economic and social insecurity. They face widespread economic upheaval and geographic displacement. There should be a uniform mechanism for the dispersal of both income support as well as essential items such as rice, wheat, millets, medicines, water and anything else that these families will require.

—Second, farmers are in dire need of immediate support. The government needs to make immediate arrangements for ensuring the availability of fertilisers, pesticides, other inputs (including access to lines of credit) for the planting of the next kharif crop as well.

—Third, supply chain disruptions for fast moving consumer goods due to unavailability of labour, difficulty in transporting goods across borders during the lockdown is leading to a shortage of foodstuffs and other essential items. This in turn is leading to massive hoarding, black marketing and runaway inflation. This needs to be addressed head on instead of in an ad-hoc manner if mass panic is to be avoided post the lockdown.

—Fourth, Medium and Small-Scale Enterprises need a clear buffer strategy for survival. There are currently close to 4.25 crores registered MSMEs which contribute 29% to India’s GDP (or nearly 61 lakh crores) and these have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 crisis imperilling, in turn, the livelihood of crores. The government must lay out an action plan, including a financial package, to fortify this sector or risk sees it perish.

Fifth, the middle class is facing growing vulnerability and needs to be protected. A long-term plan for economic revival is needed if the middle class is to emerge stronger on the other side of this crisis.

Two suggestions are: Nyay, the Minimum Income Guarantee Programme will give much needed security — both financial and mental — to those who have no other sources of income due to the lockdown. The other measure is to strengthen our manufacture and production policies by an extensive financial package with an impetus to and focus on local manufacturing. We have a chance to redraw our manufacturing strategies to reduce dependence on foreign manufacturing, create new jobs and boost exports.

—All we need now is political will.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/charting-a-common-minimum-relief-programme/article31268751.ece



5. Kerala gets nod for trial of plasma therapy


-Kerala has won Indian Council of Medical Research’s (ICMR) approval for the clinical protocol exploring the feasibility of an experimental therapy, convalescent plasma transfusion, which may be administered to severe COVID-19 patients.

-Convalescent plasma therapy is not new and has been used by doctors to treat critically ill patients during earlier epidemics too, during H1N1, SARS and Ebola.

-When reports that HIV antiviral (lopinavir/ritonavir) might be potentially useful in treating COVID-19 patients, then too Kerala had sought ICMR’s early clearance for the protocol in January itself.


Drugs Controller General’s approval and institutional ethics committee approval would have to be there before the treatment can be administered.

-The report of Proceedings of National Academies of Sciences (U.S.) said that one dose (200 ml) of convalescent plasma with a high concentration of neutralising antibodies was well-tolerated by patients and that it can rapidly reduce the viral load in patients and improve clinical symptoms significantly.


About Drugs Controller General: Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) is a department of the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization of the Government of India. It is responsible for approval of licences of specified categories of drugs such as blood and blood products, IV fluids, vaccines, and sera in India.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/covid-19-kerala-gets-nod-for-trial-of-plasma-therapy/article31303701.ece


6. 50 trains to carry perishable goods


-Fruit and vegetable farmers have been among the hardest hit by the lockdown imposed to contain the spread of corona virus (COVID-19), facing major losses due to obstacles in harvesting and marketing their perishable produce.

-The Centre has now directed all the States and Union Territories to implement the Market Intervention Scheme to ensure remunerative prices for perishable crops.

-It has also begun a train service to transport perishable agricultural and horticultural commodities to markets due to the obstacles in road transport.

-About Market Intervention Scheme: It is meant to protect the growers of perishable commodities from making distress sales, especially at times when prices fall below the cost of production. The scheme can be invoked by a State, which is willing to bear half the losses of procurement, with the remainder being borne by the Centre, whenever there is a 10% fall in ruling market prices in comparison to the previous normal year.

-The Centre has extended the procurement window for its Price Support Scheme, under which the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Limited (NAFED) and other agencies procure pulses and oilseeds, up to 90 days from the date of commencement of the scheme in each State. It has also hiked the daily procurement limit from 25 quintals to 40 quintals per farmer for the Rabi season of 2020.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/coronavirus-lockdown-50-trains-to-carry-perishable-goods/article31302815.ece


6. BEL, AIIMS develop remote monitor: The system seeks to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for health workers


-A remote patient health monitoring system that can be installed at homes or hospitals promises to spare healthcare workers the risk of exposure to COVID-19 while attending to persons undergoing isolation either for suspected infection or as precautionary quarantine.

-Jointly developed by Bharat Electronics Ltd. and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Rishikesh, the system reduces the need for scarce personal protective gear.

-The solution aims to significantly reduce the risk of exposure to healthcare workers.

-It is also expected to reduce the increasing demand of PPE [personal protective equipment] and logistics.

-The system will also help to generate hot spots so that authorities can contain these zones.

-The device has non-invasive sensors to measure the main parameters of a person who may be a COVID-19 patient: temperature, pulse rate, SPO2 or saturated oxygen level, and respiration rate.


How it works

—A mobile app and Web browser have been developed. People who show symptoms of infection are enrolled with AIIMS - Rishikesh. The hospital will assess their complaints and if found necessary, will provide these individuals with a kit to help monitor their health parameters regularly.

—Patient health parameters, along with patient location, are uploaded on a regular basis on to a centralised command & control centre (CCC) on cloud using either the patient’s mobile phone or integral GSM SIM card. The use of cloud will facilitate seamless scaling of the database of COVID-19 suspects/patients.

—When the monitored parameters exceed preset thresholds, the software would send out alert messages to the medical officers and healthcare workers. It would also show the severity of the patient’s condition in different colour codes.

—The geographical distribution of suspected or infected cases could also be obtained using the system’s data analytics software.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/bel-aiims-develop-remote-monitor-for-covid-19-cases/article31301254.ece





1. A double whammy for India-Gulf economic ties


-The Gulf region is at the epicentre of a perfect storm: apart from the COVID-19 pandemic, it also has an oil price meltdown.

-Goldman Sachs report published on March 30 estimated that COVID-19 had lowered the world crude consumption by 28 million bpd. The consequent oil glut began depressing the price. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other crude producers (OPEC+), however, failed to reach a production-curtailing strategy as Saudi Arabia and Russia, the cartel’s two biggest producers, held different views.

-Consequently, the oil prices went for a tailspin having fallen by 55% during March to an 18-year low on March 30.

-The economic outlook for the Gulf has indeed deteriorated, with Saudi Arabia’s fiscal deficit expected to cross 8% in 2020. The global economy is expected to have a recession induced by COVID-19 this year.

-India’s economic ties with the Gulf States have two dominant verticals: the economic symbiosis and India’s expatriate community.

-Bilateral economic ties are strong: the India-Gulf trade stood around $162 billion in 2018-19, being nearly a fifth of India’s global trade. It was dominated by import of crude oil and natural gas worth nearly $75 billion, meeting nearly 65% of India’s total requirements. Some of these countries have large Indian investments and some have planned large investments in India.

-Second, the number of Indian expatriates in the Gulf States is about nine million, and they remitted nearly $40 billion back home.

-Both these intertwined pillars of India-Gulf ties have been affected by the recent maelstrom roiling the shared region.

-India being the world’s third largest importer of crude, a sharp and prolonged decline in oil prices helps its current account. However, Gulf’s lower oil revenues also presage decreased bilateral trade and investments as well as expatriates’ remittances — all of them adding to India’s current financial stress.


Impact on expatriates

Oil is a cyclic commodity and the Gulf producers have long evolved a pattern to handle its periodic lows. They tend to tighten their belts and dip into their reserves. They also transfer the burden on to the last person in line, viz. the Asian expatriate.

—The fresh recruitment stops, salaries either are lowered or stalled, taxes raised and localisation drives launched. The net result is that a large number of expatriates return to their homes.

—This time there is an added complication of the pandemic, to which the Asian expatriates living in densely populated camps are particularly vulnerable.

—In case the pandemic worsens in the lower Gulf, panic-stricken, wage-deprived Indians may prefer to come back. This would create an exodus of epic proportions.


Way Forward

—While hoping that the Gulf States are able to contain the pandemic and the oil shock, India needs to make some contingency plans in consultation with the individual countries.

—It should do whatever it takes to enhance their capacity to handle COVID-19 cases among the Indian expatriates.

—India’s missions there also need to monitor the situation and try to avoid panic among its nationals.

—In the longer run, it is quite clear that we need to find new drivers for the India-Gulf synergy. This search could begin with cooperation in healthcare and gradually extend outward towards pharmaceutical research and production, petrochemical complexes, building infrastructure in India and in third countries, agriculture, education and skilling as well as the economic activities in bilateral free zones created along our Arabian Sea coast eventually leading to an India-Gulf Cooperation Council Free Trade Area.

—Only then would we have sufficiently diversified the India-Gulf economic ties to protect them from such shocks.


About Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries: OPEC is an intergovernmental organization of 14 nations, founded on 14 September 1960 in Baghdad by the first five members (Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela), and headquartered since 1965 in Vienna, Austria.

—The current OPEC members are the following: Algeria, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, and the Republic of the Congo, Saudi Arabia (the de facto leader), the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela. Ecuador, Indonesia and Qatar are former members.

—Production cut deals with non-OPEC countries are generally referred as OPEC+.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/a-double-whammy-for-india-gulf-economic-ties/article31302542.ece


2. In time of need: On hydroxychloroquine export

-After imposing a blanket ban on the export of anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine on April 4, without exemptions on humanitarian or other grounds, India reversed the policy two days later.

-Lauded as the pharmacy of the global south, India’s decision to export the drug on humanitarian grounds to neighbouring countries and others that have been badly hit by the pandemic is welcome.

-The drug became much sought-after in India after the Indian Council of Medical Research approved its use as prophylaxis for novel corona virus by certain categories of people on March 23.

-Two days later, the drug was placed in the restricted category for export and included in schedule H1 on March 26 to prevent its sale over the counter, thereby preventing self-medication and hoarding. This was also to ensure its availability to people with rheumatoid arthritis and other conditions.

-India has a production capacity of 200 million hydroxychloroquine tablets of 200 mg strength each month and three well-established pharmaceutical companies make the drug.

-While the capacity is sufficient to meet the current demand, the companies are confident of ramping up production if the need arises.

-In all likelihood, in the short term, India might not run out of hydroxychloroquine as the national taskforce for COVID-19 had relied on weak, anecdotal evidence to make the recommendation.

-Though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorisation for the drug to treat COVID-19 patients, on April 7, the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised its position saying there is no drug available to prevent or treat COVID-19.

-Clearly, more research work is needed to establish the efficacy of the drug.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/in-time-of-need-the-hindu-editorial-on-hydroxychloroquine-export/article31302875.ece



3. Finding a scapegoat in WHO


- U.S. President Donald Trump has found a new scapegoat — the World Health Organization (WHO). In addition, he threatened to withhold funding to the WHO, accusing it of not being aggressive enough in containing the spread.

-There is no doubt that concerted efforts by China in downplaying the magnitude and severity of the outbreak in Wuhan city for over a month, starting mid-December 2019, led to the spread of the virus within and outside China. The cover-up continued even after it alerted the WHO on December 31.

-One may fault the WHO for not calling it a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) during its first meeting on January 22-23, and for the delay in calling the outbreak a pandemic.

-But since the last week of January, the global body has been urging all member states to contain the spread through aggressive testing, contact tracing and quarantining. Mr. Trump has also taken credit for rejecting WHO’s advice on keeping borders open to China.

-However, shutting down borders goes against the grain of the International Health Regulations, which were adopted by the 58th World Health Assembly in May 2005.

—The Regulations, binding on all member states, provide norms for public health response to international spread of a disease while also “avoiding unnecessary interference with international traffic and trade.”

—The WHO, be it in announcing H1N1 as a pandemic in 2009 or declaring Ebola and Zika as PHEIC, has always maintained that there should be no travel or trade restrictions on communities or countries.

—Moreover, the WHO is only an advisory and not a regulatory body and it would be naïve to fault it for China or any other country not being transparent.


About WHO: The World Health Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for international public health. It is part of the U.N. Sustainable Development Group.

Head: Tedros Adhanom

Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland

Founded: 7 April 1948


About Public Health Emergency of International Concern : It is a formal declaration by the World Health Organization (WHO) of "an extraordinary event which is determined to constitute a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease and to potentially require a coordinated international response", formulated when a situation arises that is "serious, sudden, unusual or unexpected", which "carries implications for public health beyond the affected state's national border" and "may require immediate international action".

—Under the 2005 International Health Regulations (IHR), states have a legal duty to respond promptly to a PHEIC.

—The declaration is publicized by an Emergency Committee (EC) made up of international experts operating under the IHR (2005), which was developed following the SARS outbreak of 2002–03.

—Since 2009 there have been six PHEIC declarations: the 2009 H1N1 (or swine flu) pandemic, the 2014 polio declaration, the 2014 outbreak of Ebola in Western Africa, the 2015–16 Zika virus epidemic, the ongoing 2018–20 Kivu Ebola epidemic and the ongoing 2019–20 corona virus pandemic, declared a PHEIC by the Director-General on 30 January 2020.

—The recommendations are temporary and require reviews every three months.

—SARS, smallpox, wild type poliomyelitis, and any new subtype of human influenza are automatically PHEICs and thus do not require an IHR decision to declare them as such.

—A PHEIC is not confined to infectious diseases, and may cover an emergency caused by exposure to a chemical agent or radioactive material.







1. Gamosa’ evolves from memento to mask in Assam


-The COVID-19 pandemic has made the ubiquitous gamosa, a decorative cotton towel, evolve from memento to mask.

-Assamese have been designing the masks with motifs of the endangered hargila (greater adjutant stork), rhino and elephant to add a dash of wildlife conservation to the protection of human faces.

-Bihu festival: Thousands of gamosas to be made and sold by the women during the Rongali Bihu festival. Since lockdown has put paid to the Bihu celebrations, the women turned the towels into masks for use during the COVID-19 crisis

- Cultural identity: Assam has traditionally had two types of gamosas — the uka or plain kind used to wipe sweat or dry the body after a bath, and the phulam, which is decorated with floral motifs to be gifted as a memento or during festivals such as Bihu.

—Cultural historians say the gamosa came to symbolise Assamese nationalism in 1916 when the Asom Chatra Sanmilan, a students’ organisation was formed, followed by the Assam Sahitya Sabha, a literary body. Wearing the phulam gamosa around the neck became a standard for cultural identity.

-Symbol of protest: The gamosa’s graph as a symbol of protest rose during the anti-foreigners Assam Agitation from 1979 to 1985. The extremist United Liberation Front of Asom too used the towel with “revolutionary” motifs.

—The gamosa staged a comeback as a political statement with the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act from mid-December 2019. The protests continued intermittently under the COVID-19 pandemic struck.







1. World faces new ‘Great Depression’


-The global corona virus pandemic is causing an economic crisis unlike any in the past century and will require a massive response to ensure recovery, said IMF chief.

-She also warned that “global growth will turn sharply negative in 2020,” with 170 of the International Monetary Fund's 180 members experiencing a decline in per capita income.

-Countries already have taken steps worth a combined $8 trillion, but governments have to do more to provide “lifelines” for businesses and households to “avoid a scarring of the economy that would make the recovery so much more difficult.”

- About $100 billion in investments already had fled emerging markets — more than three times the capital exodus seen in the 2008 global financial crisis.

-About IMF : The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an international organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., consisting of 189 countries working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world while periodically depending on the World Bank for its resources.

—Formed in 1944 at the Bretton Woods Conference primarily by the ideas of Harry Dexter White and John Maynard Keynes, it came into formal existence in 1945 with 29 member countries and the goal of reconstructing the international payment system.

—It now plays a central role in the management of balance of payments difficulties and international financial crises.

—Countries contribute funds to a pool through a quota system from which countries experiencing balance of payments problems can borrow money. As of 2016, the fund had XDR 477 billion (about US$ 667 billion).





2. Industrial output grows 4.5% in Feb.


-India’s factory output accelerated 4.5% in February in comparison to the previous year.

-The growth in the Index of Industrial Production came on the back of higher output in mining, electricity and manufacturing sectors, according to the data released by the National Statistical Office.

-About IIP: The Index of Industrial Production (IIP) is an index for India, which details out the growth of various sectors in an economy such as mineral mining, electricity and manufacturing.

—The all India IIP is a composite indicator that measures the short-term changes in the volume of production of a basket of industrial products during a given period with respect to that in a chosen base period.

—It is compiled and published monthly by the Central Statistics Office (CSO), Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation six weeks after the reference month ends.

—The current base year is 2011-2012.

—The Eight Core Industries comprise nearly 40.27% of the weight of items included in the Index of Industrial Production (IIP). These are Electricity, steel, refinery products, crude oil, coal, cement, natural gas and fertilisers.




3. IOC plans to double LPG


-Indian Oil Corporation (IOCL) plans to double its LPG imports amidst rising demand for cooking gas in India arising in the course of the COVID-19 lockdown.

-Indian Oil had delivered more than 3.38 crores LPG cylinders to its customers in the last 15 days since the lockdown was implemented, that is, 26 lakh cylinders every single working day.

-Indian Oil has also advised its distributors to give priority refill deliveries to LPG customers under Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana for whom the Centre has extended three LPG refills free of cost during the months of April, May and June 2020.

-About Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY): It was launched by Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi on 1 May 2016 to distribute 50 million LPG connections to women of BPL families.




4.Army worm attack adds to COVID-19 woes of Assam farmers


-A pest attack, albeit confined to a district, has added to the COVID-19-related woes of Assam’s farmers.

-Officials of the Directorate of Agriculture said farmers in north-eastern Dhemaji district reported armyworm attack on the standing crops.

-About armyworm caterpillar: It is the larval stage of several species of moths, has a voracious appetite. Entomologists say it feeds on more than 80 species of plants.

-The weather has been a factor, too. The pre-monsoon rains have eluded Assam so far. The temperature is quite high now, and the armyworm can cause more damage if there is no rain.

-April-May is the time when paddy farmers in Assam clear weeds and manure the fields for transplanting the seedlings of the winter crop from the nursery. The process takes 35-40 days.

-Farm experts said the cycle, if pushed back by more than a month due to the lockdown, could affect yield as the sowing and maintenance phase would be perilously close to the time when Assam experiences floods.





1. ChildLine fielding calls against abuse

Context: One in every three calls made to the emergency helpline for children, Child Line 1098, days before and during the nation-wide lockdown sought protection from abuse and sexual violence.

About Child Line 1098:

-CHILDLINE 1098 is a service of Ministry of Women and Child Development.

-Child line India foundation is a non-government organisation (NGO) in India that operates a telephone helpline called Child line, for children in distress. It was India's first 24-hour; toll free, phone outreach service for children.

-Child line 1098 service is available all over India. It is available in 543+ districts and 117+ railway stations have Child Help Desks.

-CHILDLINE works for the protection of rights of all children aged from 0 to 18. Their special focus is on all children in need of care and protection, especially the more vulnerable sections, that includes

-Victims of child sexual abuse, Street children and youth living alone on the streets, Child labourers working in the unorganised and organized sectors, Domestic help, especially girl domestics.

Children affected by physical / sexual / emotional abuse in family, schools or institutions etc.