IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


21st April, 2020



1. Staff donate for PMNRF, DU redirects money to PM-CARES


—After an appeal for donations to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) from the University Grants Commission and the Delhi University, one day’s worth of DU staff salaries were deducted for this purpose.

—However, the collected money — amounting to more than ₹4 crores — was sent to the PM-CARES Fund instead.



— Prime Minister's National Relief Fund (PMNRF) was established entirely with public contributions and does not get any budgetary support.

—PMNRF accepts voluntary contributions from Individuals, Organizations, Trusts, Companies and Institutions etc.

—All contributions towards PMNRF are exempt from Income Tax under section 80(G).

—The resources of the PMNRF are utilized to render immediate relief to families of those killed in natural calamities like floods, cyclones and earthquakes, etc.

—Assists partially to defray the expenses for medical treatment like heart surgery, kidney transplantation, cancer treatment of needy people and acid attack etc.

—Donations are accepted through BHIM/UPI (VPA: pmnrf@ central bank), Credit Cards / Debit Cards / Net banking Accounts of Indian Banks only.



— Keeping in mind the need for having a dedicated national fund with the primary objective of dealing with any kind of emergency or distress situation, like posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to provide relief to the affected, a public charitable trust under the name of ‘Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund’ (PM CARES Fund)’ has been set up.



—To undertake and support relief or assistance of any kind relating to a public health emergency or any other kind of emergency, calamity or distress, either man-made or natural, including the creation or up gradation of healthcare or pharmaceutical facilities, other necessary infrastructure, funding relevant research or any other type of support.

—To render financial assistance, provide grants of payments of money or take such other steps as may be deemed necessary by the Board of Trustees to the affected population.

—To undertake any other activity, which is not inconsistent with the above Objects.


Constitution of the Trust:

—Prime Minister is the ex-officio Chairman of the PM CARES Fund and Minister of Defence, Minister of Home Affairs and Minister of Finance, Government of India is ex-officio Trustees of the Fund.

—The Chairperson of the Board of Trustees (Prime Minister) shall have the power to nominate three trustees to the Board of Trustees who shall be eminent persons in the field of research, health, science, social work, law, public administration and philanthropy.

—Any person appointed a Trustee shall act in a pro bono capacity.


Other details:

—The fund consists entirely of voluntary contributions from individuals/organizations and does not get any budgetary support. The fund will be utilised in meeting the objectives as stated above.

—Donations to PM CARES Fund would qualify for 80G benefits for 100% exemption under the Income Tax Act, 1961. Donations to PM CARES Fund will also qualify to be counted as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) expenditure under the Companies Act, 2013

—PM CARES Fund also has exemption under the FCRA and a separate account for receiving foreign donations has been opened. This enables PM CARES Fund to accept donations and contributions from individuals and organizations based in foreign countries. This is consistent with respect to Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF). PMNRF has also received foreign contributions as a public trust since 2011.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/staff-donate-for-pmnrf-du-redirects-money-to-pm-cares/article31390753.ece


2. Coronavirus | Bengal begins rapid antibody tests in red zones

—The West Bengal government has announced that it will conduct rapid antibody tests in accordance with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) advisory issued on April 17.


About Rapid Antibody test

They will be carried out in highly affected areas on people showing influenza-like symptoms. These tests are relatively cheap as compared to the Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test, which is currently the standard test being carried out in the country.

—RT-PCR test only works on DNA, hence RNA viruses like Covid-19 is first converted to DNA, which makes the process time-consuming.

—An antibody test, on the other hand, can give results in 15 minutes. Highly affected areas need to be tested much more and that is why rapid antibody tests are suitable. While they are quick and inexpensive, the most important factor is that it does not take a specialist to perform the test.

—The test is done by pricking a finger and putting some blood in it. It is similar to a pregnancy test. There is a control line, a G line that indicates IgG (Immunoglobulin G) antibodies, an M line that indicates IgM (Immunoglobulin M) antibodies and a negative line, which means there are no antibodies.

—The immune system produces IgM antibodies in the initial stages of infection and IgG at later stages. When enough number of people are infected, perhaps people with IgG antibodies can be given recovery certificates and they can travel freely.

—The distinction between IgM and IgG antibodies is not being made in India. Not all approved test kits in India tell the distinction between IgG and IgM antibodies. Additionally, private labs are not allowed to perform antibody tests yet. However, it is a step forward for ICMR.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/bengal-begins-rapid-antibody-tests-in-red-zones/article31383368.ece


3. Blood banks running on low reserves, seek urgent help


—Pushed against the wall, hospitals across India have now started contacting individual blood donors to tide over the acute shortage of blood that most of them are facing with the continued lockdown due to COVID-19.


Worst hit

—The worst hit are patients requiring dialysis, having blood disorders, and pregnant women.


Thalassemics fearful

—Thalassemics India, an NGO working for patients, has now requested the Health Ministry to help tide over the shortage.

—Thalassemia patients need repeated blood transfusions to survive. Patients fear that the coming times could be difficult for them.


—The organisation has suggested that the States should also try to arrange transportation to donors, and even patients, if possible, to come to medical centres. The group has noted that the worst hit are patients from small cities and villages.


‘Stock blood’

—The Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan, speaking about the shortage of blood, said that hospitals should now start working on ensuring sufficient stock of blood for transfusion by promoting voluntary blood donors and utilising various services like mobile blood collection vans with the help of the Indian Red Cross Society.

—The Health Ministry has asked the Indian Red Cross Society to send mobile blood collection vans to the premises of regular blood donors to facilitate them to come forward for blood donation.

—According to the National Blood Transfusion Council, there are 2,023 blood banks in India, which receive 78% of their blood supply from voluntary donors.

—The Indian Red Cross Society has noted that though there is drop in blood collection, efforts are underway to rectify the situation.

—The World Health Organization recommends that the blood requirement of 1% of a country’s population be used as a ballpark estimate of its blood needs. By this measure, India was short of 1.9 million units of blood as per data presented to the Lok Sabha in 2018.


About Thalassemia

— Thalassemias are inherited blood disorders characterized by decreased haemoglobin production.

— Symptoms depend on the type and can vary from none to severe.

—Often there is mild to severe anaemia (low red blood cells or haemoglobin).  Anaemia can result in feeling tired and pale skin. There may also be bone problems, an enlarged spleen, yellowish skin, and dark urine. Slow growth may occur in children.

— Treatment depends on the type and severity. Treatment for those with more severe disease often includes regular blood transfusions, iron chelation, and folic acid.

— Iron chelation may be done with deferoxamine or deferasirox.

— Occasionally, a bone marrow transplant may be an option.

— Complications may include iron overload from the transfusions with resulting heart or liver disease, infections, and osteoporosis.  If the spleen becomes overly enlarged, surgical removal may be required.


About Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS)

—It is a voluntary humanitarian organization to protect human life and health based in India.

— It is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and so shares the Fundamental Principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

—The society's mission is providing relief in times of disasters/emergencies and promoting health & care of vulnerable people and communities. It has a network of over 700 branches throughout India.

—The Society uses the Red Cross as an emblem in common with other international Red Cross societies. Volunteering has been at the very heart of the Indian Red Cross Society since its inception in 1920, with the Society having Youth and junior volunteering programmes. The Society is closely associated with the St John Ambulance in India.


About NBTC

—In accordance with the directive of the Supreme Court, National Blood Transfusion Council was constituted in 1996 with the objectives to promote voluntary blood donation, ensure safe blood transfusion, provide infrastructure to blood centres, develop human resource and formulate and implement the Blood Policy.

—National Blood Transfusion Council (NBTC) is the policy formulating apex body in relation to all matters pertaining to operation of blood centres.

—The NBTC is the central body that coordinates the State Blood Transfusion Councils (SBTCs) and also ensures involvement of other Ministries and other health programmes for various activities relate to Blood Transfusion Services (BTS).


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/blood-banks-running-on-low-reserves-seek-urgent-help/article31389707.ece


4. No plan for GST relief for key medical items: Centre


—The Centre does not plan to provide an exemption from paying Goods and Services Tax (GST) for key medical items such as ventilators, sanitisers, corona virus (COVID-19) diagnostic test kits, masks and other protective equipment.

—Exempting GST would increase manufacturing costs without helping the consumer much, and would also incentivise import of such items from China, official sources said.

—Currently, sanitisers are taxed at 18%, while ventilators and test kits are taxed at 12%. Masks attract 5% GST.

 —However, government sources say that such a move could be counterproductive. Basic customs duty and health cess have been exempted on most of these items until September.

— As GST is a value added tax collected on net basis at each stage of the supply chain, an exemption would lead to blocked input tax credit, thus increasing the cost and compliance burden for manufacturers, without reducing the cost for consumers.

—The increased manufacturing cost would discourage domestic manufacturers and incentivise imports from foreign players who would not face any input tax credit blockage, said sources, pointing to a previous experience with GST on sanitary napkins.

— They added that such imports would mostly be sub-standard quality goods from China.


About GST

— Goods and Services Tax (GST) is an indirect tax (or consumption tax) used in India on the supply of goods and services. It is a comprehensive, multistage, destination-based tax: comprehensive because it has subsumed almost all the indirect taxes except a few state taxes.

—Multi-staged as it is, the GST is imposed at every step in the production process, but is meant to be refunded to all parties in the various stages of production other than the final consumer and as a destination-based tax, it is collected from point of consumption and not point of origin like previous taxes.

—Goods and services are divided into five different tax slabs for collection of tax - 0%, 5%, 12%, 18% and 28%. However, petroleum products, alcoholic drinks, and electricity are not taxed under GST and instead are taxed separately by the individual state governments, as per the previous tax system.

—There is a special rate of 0.25% on rough precious and semi-precious stones and 3% on gold. In addition, a cess of 22% or other rates on top of 28% GST applies on few items like aerated drinks, luxury cars and tobacco products.

—Pre-GST, the statutory tax rate for most goods was about 26.5%, Post-GST; most goods are expected to be in the 18% tax range.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/business/no-plan-for-gst-relief-for-key-medical-items-centre/article31390997.ece





1. Yamuna water quality improves during lockdown: govt. report

—The quality of water in the Yamuna has improved along the Delhi stretch during the nationwide lockdown, compared to April last year, according to a report by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC).

—An increased flow of water in the river has also contributed to less pollution, the report said.

—But the report noted that the Yamuna has still not met the “water quality criteria”.


Reduced pollution

—According to the report, the pollution has reduced by 21% at ITO Bridge, 20% at Nizamuddin Bridge, and 18% at Okhla Barrage.

—Also, pollution has reduced in five out of the six major drains, which flow into the Yamuna that the DPCC measured.

—A National Green Tribunal (NGT)-appointed monitoring committee had earlier this month asked the DPCC and the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to measure the quality of water in the Yamuna.

—Of the nine locations from where the DPCC took samples, five have shown 18%-33% reduction in biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) levels. The rest of the four locations have shown slight to considerable increase in BOD levels.


What is BOD?

—BOD is the amount of oxygen needed by microorganisms to decompose organic matter (waste or pollutants) under aerobic reaction (in the presence of oxygen).

—A higher BOD level means that more oxygen is needed to decompose a large quantity of organic matter (waste or pollutants) present in the water. So, a higher value of BOD means that the water is more polluted.


Dissolved oxygen

—According to the report, four of the nine locations where dissolved oxygen (DO) was nil in 2019 showed DO levels of 2.3-4.8 mg/l.

—Dissolved oxygen is the amount of dissolved oxygen present in the water, which is needed, for aquatic life to survive. The quality of water increases with an increase in DO levels.

— DO level of 5 mg/l or above is the recommended level for bathing in a river and DO levels over 5 mg/l were found only in two locations closer to where the river enters Delhi, as per the report.


About NGT

— National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 is an Act of the Parliament of India, which enables creation of a special tribunal to handle the expeditious disposal of the cases pertaining to environmental issues.

—It draws inspiration from the India's constitutional provision of (Constitution of India/Part III) Article 21 Protection of life and personal liberty, which assures the citizens of India the right to a healthy environment. Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) is a department to control pollution in Delhi.


About CPCB

— The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) of India is a statutory organisation under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (Mo.E.F.C).

—It was established in 1974 under the Water (Prevention and Control of pollution) Act, 1974. The CPCB is also entrusted with the powers and functions under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.

—It serves as a field formation and also provides technical services to the Ministry of Environment and Forests under the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

—It co-ordinates the activities of the State Pollution Control Boards by providing technical assistance and guidance and resolves disputes among them. It is the apex organisation in country in the field of pollution control, as a technical wing of MoEFC.

—The board is led by its Chairperson, who is generally a career civil servant from the Indian Administrative Service appointed by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet of the Government of India.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/yamuna-water-quality-improves-during-lockdown-govt-report/article31392030.ece





1. Naqash artisans of Nirmal town hit hard by lockdown

—With no work and faced with an uncertain future, the Naqash artisans of Nirmal town and the dhokra metal casters of Adilabad and Kumram Bheem Asifabad districts are pleading for help from the government.

—There are about 50 families of Naqash artisans based at Nirmal district headquarters town specialising in making the famous softwood toys known as Nirmal toys and the unique Nirmal paintings.

—About 160 families of Ojha craftsmen at Belsari Rampur in Adilabad and Jamgaon and Ushegaon in KB Asifabad districts make dhokra brass metal artefacts.

—While the Nirmal artisans work under the cooperative organisation called The Nirmal Toys and Arts Industrial Cooperative Society Ltd., the Ojha craftsmen work as individual enterprises.


Dhokra metal work (also spelt Dokra) is non–ferrous metal casting using the lost-wax casting technique. This sort of metal casting has been used in India for over 4,000 years and is still used. One of the earliest known lost wax artefacts is the dancing girl of Mohenjo-daro. The product of dhokra artisans are in great demand in domestic and foreign markets because of primitive simplicity, enchanting folk motifs and forceful form. Dhokra horses, elephants, peacocks, owls, religious images, measuring bowls, and lamp caskets etc., are highly appreciated




1. COVID-19 | A robot to fight virus in Kannur


—The robot deployed assists health workers in caring for COVID-19 patients, taking food and medicines to them and aiding interaction between the patients and the staff.

—Christened ‘Nightingale-19’, the robot has been designed by the students of Vimal Jyoti Engineering College, Chemberi.

—Nightingale-19 can carry food and water weighing 25 kg for six persons at a time.

—It can be remotely controlled over a distance of one km.


Video system

—An interesting feature of this robot is that patients can interact with the hospital staff via an inbuilt video system.

—After every assignment, the robot is disinfected.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/covid-19-a-robot-to-fight-virus-in-kannur/article31391486.ece




1. Takeover fears: nuanced approach on Chinese investments

—The government’s decision to ban foreign direct investments (FDI) through the automatic route from neighbouring countries that share a land border with India has raised eyebrows.

—This is mainly because the move is seen as aimed at Chinese investors who could exploit cheap valuations in the depressed economic conditions post-lockdown to pick up equity interest in select companies.

—Italy, Spain, France and Australia have already taken similar action to protect their businesses from foreign (read Chinese) investors fishing for distressed entities in need of cash in the post-COVID-19 scenario.

—According to a Brookings India study, the total current and planned investment by Chinese entities is over $26 billion.

—There has always been unease over the fact that there is a thin line that divides the state sector from private enterprise in China and several companies there trace linkages back to the security apparatus of that country.

—So, while the decision to introduce a layer of government approval is probably valid in the current circumstances, the government could have adopted a more nuanced approach.


Greenfield investments should have been kept out of the purview, as they do not pose a threat of takeover of existing business; to the contrary, they create new capacities and businesses in the country.

—A distinction should also have been made based on the class of investors: venture capital funds are financial investors who may not necessarily be interested in taking over and running a business. —While the FDI route has been plugged, it is not clear what happens to investments that come through the market route.

—SEBI has already sent out missives to custodians asking for details of Chinese holdings in listed entities.

—And, now that the wall has been raised, approvals should be quick for investment proposals in the technology start-up space, where cash burn is high and existing investors are often tapped for a top-up investment.


About FDI

— A foreign direct investment (FDI) is an investment in the form of a controlling ownership in a business in one country by an entity based in another country. It is thus distinguished from a foreign portfolio investment by a notion of direct control.


What Is a Green-Field Investment?

—A green-field (also "Greenfield") investment is a type of foreign direct investment (FDI) in which a parent company creates a subsidiary in a different country, building its operations from the ground up. In addition to the construction of new production facilities, these projects can also include the building of new distribution hubs, offices, and living quarters.


About Venture capital funds

—These are investment funds that manage the money of investors who seek private equity stakes in start-up and small- to medium-sized enterprises with strong growth potential. These investments are generally characterized as high-risk/high-return opportunities.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/takeover-fears-nuanced-approach-on-chinese-investments/article31391633.ece


2. Additional trade barriers violate WTO’s principle of non-discrimination: China

—India’s recently adopted policy to curb opportunistic takeovers of domestic companies goes against the principles of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in India said.


China’s Stand:

—The additional barriers set by Indian side for investors from specific countries violate WTO’s principle of non-discrimination, and go against the general trend of liberalisation and facilitation of trade and investment. More importantly, they do not conform to the consensus of the G20 leaders and Trade Ministers to realise a free, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent, predictable and stable trade and investment environment, and to keep our markets open, as per China.

—It was understood that the Indian decision was a response to the news of an incremental purchase of shares in HDFC by the People’s Bank of China.


Free market economy

—Analysts have pointed out that the amended policy brings every kind of Chinese investors to India within the ambit of government approval reducing the space for private business negotiations.


About WTO

— The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an intergovernmental organization that is concerned with the regulation of international trade between nations. The WTO officially commenced on 1 January 1995 under the Marrakesh Agreement, signed by 123 nations on 15 April 1994, replacing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which commenced in 1948. It is the largest international economic organization in the world.


About Principle of non-discrimination

— It has two major components: the most favoured nation (MFN) rule, and the national treatment policy.

—Both are embedded in the main WTO rules on goods, services, and intellectual property, but their precise scope and nature differ across these areas.

—The MFN rule requires that a WTO member must apply the same conditions on all trade with other WTO members, i.e. a WTO member has to grant the most favourable conditions under which it allows trade in a certain product type to all other WTO members.

—National treatment means that imported goods should be treated no less favourably than domestically produced goods (at least after the foreign goods have entered the market) and was introduced to tackle non-tariff barriers to trade (e.g. technical standards, security standards et al. discriminating against imported goods).


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/additional-trade-barriers-violate-wtos-principle-of-non-discrimination-china/article31386906.ece


3. Nurturing air power to meet rising demand

—In early April, Pakistan Air Traffic Controller sent a laudatory message to Air India for operating special flights to Frankfurt with relief material and evacuated European nationals.

—Air power is the total aviation capability of a nation, military and civilian put together.

—Soon after the novel corona virus began spreading, Air India evacuated Indian nationals from Wuhan, China.

—C-17 Globe masters and IL-76 aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) have been on the job too.


Rescue efforts

—Recent history is witness to their untiring work in building brand India.

—In 1957, and then in 1978, the IAF was sent to Sri Lanka for flood relief efforts, as it was to Bangladesh in 1991 after the cyclone.

—Following the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004, 30 transport aircraft and 16 helicopters flew round the clock in India’s island territories; two IL-78 aerial refuelling tankers were stripped of their fuselage fuel tanks overnight and the aircraft pressed into relief. In addition, six Mi 8 helicopters were sent to help Sri Lanka.

—The IAF transport fleet was in the forefront to retrieve casualties from Kabul following the 2008 bombing of the Indian embassy.



—The biggest challenge is that all of India’s medium- and heavy-lift assets are foreign sourced, except the Dhruv and Chetak/Cheetah helicopters.

—The IL-76 and An-32, which have been the IAF’s workhorses, will be phased out soon and so will the short haul Avros.

—Finances will have to be found for their replacements.

—Planning for this must happen now.

—Despite the fact that the latest parliamentary committee report has adversely commented on the funding for capital acquisitions- in FY-2019-20 being just 65% of projections, the government has to take a call.

—The requirements for internal law and order and air maintenance airlift for the Army for forward areas, both of which are substantial, will also continue.

—Increased utilisation of airlift assets would mean higher maintenance requirements, and since most are foreign sourced, they will have to be sent abroad for major servicing. This will result in reduced aircraft availability for long durations.

—The Ministry of Defence will need all its persuasive powers to generate the required monies from the scarce resources with the Finance Ministry, if Indian air power’s HADR capability is to be in the forefront of its military diplomacy.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/nurturing-air-power-to-meet-rising-demand/article31391738.ece


4. RBI raises WMA limit for April-Sept.

—The RBI has decided to increase the ways and means advances limit for the April-September period of the current financial year to ₹2 lakh core from ₹1.2 lakh crores due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


About Ways and means advances (WMA)

—It is a mechanism used by Reserve Bank of India (RBI) under its credit policy to provide to States, banking with it, to help them tide over temporary mismatches in the cash flow of their receipts and payments. This is guided under Section 17(5) of RBI Act and is repayable in each case not later than three months from the date of making that advance.

—There are two types of WMA – normal and special.

—While Normal WMA are clean advances, Special WMA are secured advances provided against the pledge of government of India–dated securities.

—The operative limit for special WMA for a state is subject to its holdings of central government dated securities up to a maximum of limit sanctioned.

— In addition, the RBI has determined limits for normal and special WMA for each state as multiples of the prescribed minimum balance required to be maintained with the RBI by that state. These limits have been revised periodically.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/business/rbi-raises-wma-limit-for-april-sept/article31391236.ece




1. Implement Aarogya Setu, but only through law

—Studies say that there will be multiple waves of infection following the first wave of COVID 19.

—Heightened epidemic surveillance by the government could lead to an increased risk of institutionalised surveillance of individuals.

—To protect large swathes of the population from possible exposure to the infection, the movement of individuals will also be heavily regulated.


Purpose limitation

—At present, the movement of individuals is subject to permits in various parts of the world, including India.

—In China, it is alarming to note that a phone app was started as a voluntary service for informing users of their potential exposure to infected persons, but soon began to be used as an e-pass for allowing access to public transport.

—App has been criticised for not complying with data protection principles of data minimisation, purpose limitation, transparency and accountability, all of which are crucial to protecting the privacy of its users.

—According to the app’s privacy policy, Aarogya Setu collects the personal data of its users and allows the disclosure of such data to the government to provide it with necessary details for “carrying out medical and administrative interventions necessary in relation to COVID-19.”

— Such vague articulation weakens the app’s purpose limitation. The government is also at liberty to revise the terms of the privacy policy at its discretion (and has done so) without notifying its users.

—Concomitantly, the app also equips the government with an instrument for restricting and regulating the right of freedom of movement of citizens, especially due to its fluid terms of service.

—There is no limitation on the gamut of restrictions that may be imposed using the app. The resultant impact will be disproportionately higher on the most vulnerable sections of the society.


The unconstitutional bargain

—A seemingly benign app based on voluntary consent is thus loaded with potential to be used as a tool to violate fundamental rights.

—Further, the existing users of the app could be subject to arbitrary restrictions in their fundamental rights without their informed consent, as they would not have foreseen such restrictions at the time of giving their consent to downloading the app.

—The situation bears resemblance to Aadhaar. Originally designed as an optional programme to provide government benefits to citizens based on their voluntary consent, Aadhaar was later made compulsory, even for private services such as banking and mobile phone registrations.


Way Forward

—To avoid unforeseeable dangers of mass surveillance and disproportionate restrictions of fundamental rights, it is therefore imperative that the Aaorgya Setu app is implemented only through law, especially since India lacks a comprehensive data protection or surveillance law.

—It is already a settled legal principle that any limitation of fundamental rights must be implemented only through a law pursuing legitimate state interest.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/implement-aarogya-setu-but-only-through-law/article31391708.ece



1. Australia to force tech giants to share revenue

—Australia will force Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google to share advertising revenue with local media firms, the country’s treasurer said on Monday, becoming one of the first countries to require digital platforms to pay for content they use.

—The mandatory code will include sharing of data, ranking and display of news content and the sharing of revenue generated from news, adding that it would also establish penalty and binding dispute resolution mechanisms.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/australia-to-force-tech-giants-to-share-revenue/article31391742.ece


2. U.S. oil prices fall below zero goes to minus $37.63 per barrel

—Traders fled from the expiring May U.S. oil futures contract in a frenzy, sending the contract into negative territory for the first time in history, as barely any buyers are willing to take delivery of oil barrels because there is no place to put the crude.

—May U.S. crude futures plunged to a depth never before seen, settling on the day at minus $37.63 a barrel, a decline of some 305%, or $55.90 a barrel. Prices set a low of negative $40.32.

—With demand down 30% worldwide due to the corona virus pandemic, and the main U.S. storage hub in Cushing, Oklahoma expected to fill up in a matter of weeks, very few want to be stuck with oil barrels that they have to take delivery on at some point during May.

—Major oil-producing nations have agreed to cut output and global oil companies are trimming production, but those cuts will not come quickly enough to avoid a massive clog.

—The difference <CLc1-CLc2> between the expiring May U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude contract and the coming June contract widened to a record at more than $22 a barrel.

—That yawning gap emerged because owning the May contract when it expires on Tuesday means that buyer is obligated to take those barrels, which few want to do.


When a futures contract expires, traders must decide whether to take delivery or roll their positions into an upcoming contract. Usually this process is relatively uncomplicated, but the May contract's decline reflects worries that too much supply could hit the markets, with shipments out of OPEC nations like Saudi Arabia booked in March set to cause a glut.


—Available storage space is dropping fast at the Cushing, Oklahoma hub, where physical delivery of U.S. oil barrels bought in the futures market takes place. Four weeks ago, the storage hub was half-full - now it is 69% full, according to U.S. Energy Department data.


—The world's major oil producers agreed to cut production by 9.7 million bpd in an attempt to get world supply under control as demand slumps, but those cuts do not begin until May.

—Saudi Arabia is ramping up deliveries of oil, including big shipments to the United States.


—Worldwide oil consumption is roughly 100 million barrels a day, and supply generally stays in line with that.

—But consumption is down about 30% globally, and the cuts so far are far less.


About OPEC

— The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is an intergovernmental organization of 13 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.

—As of September 2018, the 14 member countries accounted for an estimated 44 percent of global oil production and 81.5 percent of the world's "proven" oil reserves, giving OPEC a major influence on global oil prices that were previously determined by the so-called "Seven Sisters" grouping of multinational oil companies.

—Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for OPEC oil has fallen to a 30-year low in second quarter of 2020.

—A larger group called OPEC+ was formed in late 2016 to have more control on global crude oil market.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/business/Economy/us-crude-futures-turn-negative-for-first-time-on-scant-storage-weak-demand/article31392254.ece