IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


28th April, 2020



1. Coronavirus | ICMR says no payment made for Chinese test kits supplies


Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) stated that India does not stand to lose a single rupee on the alleged profiteering by distributors, exposed through a legal dispute between an importer and a distributor, in the delivery COVID-19 rapid antibody testing kits to it.

—According to details provided in the Delhi High Court, the kits procured from China, whose delivered cost was ₹245 a test, were sold to ICMR for ₹600 a test — a mark up of 145%.

—The matter came to light when Rare Metabolics Life Sciences Pvt. Ltd and Aark Pharmaceuticals, distributors of Chinese Wondfo Biotech’s kits imported by Matrix Labs, approached the High Court recently to get delivery/payment disputes cleared.


Advisory to States

—ICMR noted that the States have been advised to stop using the kits procured from Wondfo and Zhuhai Livzon Diagnostics after it found wide variation in their sensitivity despite early promise of good performance for surveillance purpose.

—ICMR, thereafter, evaluated the kits in field conditions and the results have shown wide variation in their sensitivity despite early promise of good performance for surveillance purposes. 

—The RT-PCR throat/nasal swab test was the best use for diagnosis of COVID -19. It detected the virus early and was the best strategy to identify and isolate the individual, ICMR pointed out.


About ICMR

— The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the apex body in India for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research, is one of the oldest and largest medical research bodies in the world.

—The ICMR is funded by the Government of India through the Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.


About RT-PCR

—It stands for reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction. Reverse transcription turns viral RNA into DNA, which polymerase enzymes can then properly amplify.

—The process is also called real-time RT-PCR, because the PCR reaction is measuring the amplification of corona virus genes in real time.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/coronavirus-stop-using-2-chinese-firms-rapid-test-kits-icmr-tells-states/article31446078.ece


2. Coronavirus | Odisha prepares low cost ‘aerosol box’ and ‘face shields’


Government Industrial Training Institute (ITI) of Odisha’s Berhampur has prepared extreme low cost ‘aerosol box’ and ‘face shields’ for medical staff involved in treatment of COVID-19 patients.

—Receiving information about it, Director General of Employment and Training (DGET) and Central ministry for Skill Development & Entrepreneurship has organised a video conference of different ITIs of the country on April 30, where Berhampur ITI will provide technical training for preparation of these much-needed medical equipments to other ITIs for local production at their end.


—‘Aerosol box’ is a transparent box with holes to enter gloved hands, which is put over the head of a COVID-19 patient placed on ventilator in ICU during the intubation process. Intubation involves insertion of endotracheal tube (ET) through the mouth to the airway.

—The ‘aerosol box’ serves as barrier to check possible transmission of COVID-19 droplets from the patient to the treating doctors administering intubation.

—The ‘aerosol box’ of Berhampur ITI uses 4mm transparent acrylic sheets that are cut by laser cutting machine to make the joints completely airtight. After use for one patient, it can be sanitised for reuse.


—The face shields of Behampur ITI uses A4 transparent shields with foam lined elastic bands to keep them attached to the head of the user.

—These shields covering face, eyes and neck are useful protective gear for medical staff, ambulance drivers, health workers and police, who are at high risk of airborne viral droplets.


—Added to it, Berhampur ITI has also constructed one cost effective ‘mobile COVID-19 sample collection kiosk’ at cost of 30,000 rupees.

—Till now, no COVID-19 positive case has emerged from Ganjam district. If need arises more such mobile kiosks will be constructed.


About ITI

—Industrial Training Institutes (ITI) and Industrial Training Centres are post-secondary schools in India constituted under Directorate General of Training (DGT), Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Union Government to provide training in various trades.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/coronavirus-odisha-prepares-low-cost-aerosol-box-and-face-shields/article31449349.ece


3. CSIR to let firms defer fee on use of its technology


—The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), will allow firms that use its intellectual property to manufacture items for containing COVID-19 to defer payments for up to six months.

—These will include diagnostic kits, personal protective equipment, drugs and health equipment.


41 technologies

—Currently the 38 labs of the organisation have 41 dedicated technologies to deal with the pandemic. They include a paper strip-based test to detect the virus, various kinds of hand sanitisers, a pre-fabricated makeshift hospital and a 3-D printed ventilator.

—Being a publicly funded organisation, technologies developed by the CSIR are generally available to the industry on a non-exclusive licensing basis that is any company can earn the right to manufacture and sell a product provided they pay a technology fee.


Antibody tests

—The organisation was working to develop serology or antibody tests that were cheap and could be quickly deployed for checking prevalence of the disease in community settings.

—The Indian Council of Medical Research on Monday suspended contracts to deploy 6, 00,000 antibody tests after they reported inconsistent results from field tests.

—Three CSIR laboratories were already part of the network of government laboratories involved in testing for the disease. These were the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, the Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine and the Institute of Microbial Technology.


About CSIR

— The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research abbreviated as CSIR was established by the Government of India in September 1942 as an autonomous body that has emerged as the largest research and development organisation in India.

— Although it is mainly funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology, it operates as an autonomous body through the Societies Registration Act, 1860.

—The research and development activities of CSIR include aerospace engineering, structural engineering, ocean sciences, life sciences, metallurgy, chemicals, mining, food, petroleum, leather, and environmental science.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/csir-to-let-firms-defer-fee-on-use-of-its-technology/article31448071.ece





1. RBI opens ₹50,000 liquidity tap for Mutual Funds


—The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has announced a special window of ₹50,000 crores for mutual funds in view of the redemption pressure that the fund houses are facing.

—While announcing the window, the RBI said the liquidity stress is limited to high-risk debt funds and the larger industry remains liquid.

—Under the scheme, the RBI will conduct repo operation of 90-day tenor at the fixed rate repo.

—Funds availed under this facility will be used by banks exclusively for meeting the liquidity requirements of MFs by extending loans, and undertaking outright purchase of and/or repos against the collateral of investment grade corporate bonds, commercial papers (CPs), debentures and certificates of Deposit (CDs) held by MFs, the central bank said.


Franklin Templeton

—The move comes after Franklin Templeton Mutual Fund decided to wind up six debt funds that have combined assets under management of nearly ₹26,000 crores on account of illiquid, low rated instruments in their portfolio last week .


About mutual fund

—It is an open-end professionally managed investment fund that pools money from many investors to purchase securities. These investors may be retail or institutional in nature.

—Mutual funds have advantages and disadvantages compared to direct investing in individual securities.

—Advantages of mutual funds include economies of scale, diversification, liquidity, and professional management. However, these come with mutual fund fees and expenses.

—Not all investment funds are mutual funds; alternative structures include unit investment trusts, closed-end funds, and exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

—Mutual funds are also classified by their principal investments as money market funds, bond or fixed income funds, stock or equity funds, hybrid funds or other.

—Funds may also be categorized as index funds, which are passively managed funds that match the performance of an index, or actively managed funds.

Hedge funds are not mutual funds, as hedge funds cannot be sold to the public and lack various standard investor protections.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/rbi-opens-50000-liquidity-tap-for-mutual-funds/article31447414.ece




1. The script of disruption and a new order


—The COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented, involving as it does far too many variables. Hence, it unlikely that the world will ever be the same again.

—Pandemics have often changed the world and reshaped human society.

—There is already concern that a diminution in human values could occur, and with this, the concept of an international community might well cease to exist.

—Each nation is tending to look inwards, concentrating on its narrowly defined national interests.


Institutions under fire

—It is singularly unfortunate that at a time like this, existing international institutions such as the United Nations, the United Nations Security Council and the World Health Organization (WHO) are seen to have failed to measure up to the grave challenge posed by the pandemic.

—While the UN Security Council is under attack for being slow in dealing with a situation that appears, at least on the surface, far graver than any military threat in recent decades, WHO has been tarred with the charge of bias and of grossly underestimating the nature of the epidemic.


Economic shock

—On the economic front, the World Bank has already predicted negative growth for most nations. India’s growth forecast for the current fiscal year has been put at 1.5% to 2.8%.

—Contraction of the economy and the loss of millions of jobs across all segments will further complicate this situation.

—The role of the state as an enforcer of public good will almost certainly become greatly enhanced. —The dominant imperative would be to not put limits on the role of the state even where the situation may not be as grave as the present one.

—Many pieces of legislation of yesteryears that had been relegated to the archives — they were perceived to be anachronistic in a modern democratic set-up — may get a new lease of life. Some pieces of legislation such as the Disaster Management Act already reflect this reality today. Other pieces of legislation could follow in its wake.

—Europe has shown a willingness to sacrifice personal liberties in favour of greater state control.

—There are no serious protests over the fact that many of the powers being vested in the instruments of state in democracies today, to meet the current challenge, are eerily similar to those already practised by authoritarian regimes such as China.

—Post COVID-19, the world may have to pay a heavy price in terms of loss of liberty. An omnipotent state could well become a reality.


China in the spotlight

—One nation, viz. China, is presently seeking to take advantage of and benefit from the problems faced by the rest of the world in the wake of the epidemic.

— Already one of the most prominent nations of the world and an important player in international institutions, China remains totally unfazed by the stigma that the current world pandemic owes a great deal to its negligence — the first identified and detected COVID-19 victim in Wuhan was on December 1, 2019, but it was only in the second week of January 2020, that China sounded the alarm.

—More importantly, it is seeking to convert its ‘failure’ into a significant opportunity. This is Sino-centrism at its best, or possibly its worst.

—Already indispensable as the world’s supplier of manufactured goods, China now seeks to benefit from the fact of its ‘early recovery’ to take advantage of the travails of the rest of the world, by using its manufacturing capability to its geo-economic advantage.

—Simultaneously, it seeks to shift from being a Black Swan (responsible for the pandemic), to masquerade as a White one, by offering medical aid and other palliatives to several Asian and African countries to meet their current pandemic threat. In turn, it seeks to gain a geopolitical advantage by this action.

—China also seems to be preparing for the eventuality that the current pandemic could hollow out the financial viability of many companies, institutions and banks across the world.

—There are enough reports of China’s intentions to acquire financial assets and stakes in banks and companies across the world, taking advantage of the scaled-down value of their assets to support this.

—India seems to have woken up only recently to this threat, after the Peoples’ Bank of China acquired a 1% stake in India’s HDFC, taking advantage of the sharp decline in the price of HDFC stocks.

—Several countries apart from India, such as Australia and Germany, have begun to restrict Chinese foreign direct investment in companies and financial institutions in their countries, recognising the inherent danger of a possible Chinese hostile takeover of their critical assets.

—This may not, however, be adequate to checkmate China, which is poised to dominate the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), thus enabling it to exploit market access across the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, East Asian nations, Australia and New Zealand.

—Together with its Belt and Road Initiative, which seeks to combine regional connectivity alongside gaining a virtual economic and substantial stranglehold across Asia, China is ostensibly preparing the way for a China-centric multilateral globalisation framework.


A faltering West

—The geopolitical fallout of this pandemic could be still more serious.

—The United States, which is already being touted in some circles as a ‘failing’ state, will be compelled to cede ground.

—Weakened economically and politically after COVID-19 has ravaged the nation, the U.S.’s capacity to play a critical role in world affairs is certain to diminish.

—The main beneficiary of this geopolitical turnaround is likely to be China, a country that does not quite believe in playing by the rules of international conduct.

—Europe, in the short and medium term, will prove incapable of defining and defending its common interests, let alone having any influence in world affairs.

—Germany, which may retain some of its present strength, is already turning insular, while both France and a post-Brexit United Kingdom will be out of the reckoning as of now.


West Asia and India

—Coming to West Asia, both Saudi Arabia and Iran are set to face difficult times. The oil price meltdown will aggravate an already difficult situation across the region.

—There may be no victors, but Israel may be one country that is in a position to exploit this situation to its advantage.

—In the meantime, the economic downturn greatly reduces India’s room for manoeuvre.

—In South Asia, it faces the prospect of being isolated, with the Chinese juggernaut winning Beijing new friends and contacts across a region deeply impacted by the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

—Likewise, India’s leverage in West Asia — already greatly diminished — will suffer further, with oil prices going down and the Indian expatriate community (who are among the hardest hit by this downturn) out on a limb.

—Many of the latter may seek repatriation back to the host country, substantially reducing the inflow of foreign funds to India from the region.


About UNSC

— The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations (UN), charged with ensuring international peace and security, recommending that the General Assembly accept new members to the United Nations, and approving any changes to its charter.

—Its powers include the establishment of peacekeeping operations and international sanctions as well as the authorization of military actions through resolutions – it is the only body of the United Nations with the authority to issue binding resolutions to member states.


About WHO

— The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for international public health.

—The WHO Constitution, which establishes the agency's governing structure and principles, states its main objective as ensuring "the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health."

—It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, with six semi-autonomous regional offices and 150 field offices worldwide.


About World Bank

—It is an international financial institution that provides loans and grants to the governments of poorer countries for the purpose of pursuing capital projects.

—It comprises two institutions: the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), and the International Development Association (IDA). The World Bank is a component of the World Bank Group.


About RCEP

— The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a proposed free trade agreement in the Asia-Pacific region between the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), namely Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, and five of ASEAN's FTA partners—Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea.

India, which is also ASEAN's FTA partner, opted out of RCEP in November 2019.


About BRI

— The Belt and Road Initiative is a global development strategy adopted by the Chinese government in 2013 involving infrastructure development and investments in nearly 70 countries and international organizations in Asia, Europe, and Africa.




2. India, China among top three military spenders in 2019: SIPRI report


—The global military expenditure rose to $1917 billion in 2019 with India and China emerging among the top three spenders, according to a report by a Swedish think tank, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

—In 2019, China and India were, respectively, the second- and third-largest military spenders in the world. China’s military expenditure reached $261 billion in 2019, a 5.1% increase compared with 2018, while India’s grew by 6.8% to $71.1 billion.

— In 2019, the top five largest spenders — U.S. ($732 bn), China, India, Russia ($65.1 bn) and Saudi Arabia ($61.9 bn) — accounted for 62% of the global expenditure. The annual report ‘Trends in World Military Expenditure, 2019’ was released by the SIPRI on Monday.

—India’s tensions and rivalry with both Pakistan and China are among the major drivers for its increased military spending.

—The $71.1 billion spent by India on defence in 2019 was 2.4% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). India was at the fourth position in 2018 with Saudi Arabia at the third.


Significant rise

—Stating that India’s expenditure in 2019 was 6.8% more than that in 2018, the report says the country’s military expenditure has risen significantly over the past few decades.

—While India’s defence spending excluding pensions, which constitute a significant part, has been growing in absolute terms, it has been going down as a percentage of its GDP as noted by the report. —For instance, the defence allocation in the latest budget for 2020-21, which was ₹3.37 lakh crores, excluding defence pensions, accounts for about 1.5% of the country’s GDP, the lowest in recent times.



— Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) is an international institute based in Sweden, dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament.

Established in 1966, SIPRI provides data, analysis and recommendations, based on open sources, to policymakers, researchers, media and the interested public. SIPRI is based in Stockholm.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-china-among-top-three-military-spenders-in-2019-sipri-report/article31445560.ece


3. Coronavirus | UN warns of a ‘human rights disaster’


—The UN rights chief warned that countries flouting the rule of law in the name of fighting the novel corona virus pandemic risk sparking a “human rights disaster”.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called on countries to refrain from violating fundamental rights “under the guise of exceptional or emergency measures”.


Highest level of alarm

—Meanwhile, the World Health Organization chief said that the agency had sounded the highest level of alarm over the corona virus early on, but lamented that not all countries had heeded its advice.

—Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus pointed out that the WHO warned the COVID-19 outbreak constituted a 'Public Health Emergency of International Concern' on January 30, when there were only 82 cases registered outside China.



—The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is a United Nations agency with the mandate to protect refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people, and assist in their voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement to a third country. UNHCR‘s mandate does not apply to Palestinian refugees, who are assisted by UNRWA.


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. 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. In any case within its ambit, it is a "call to action" and "last resort" measure.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/coronavirus-un-warns-of-a-human-rights-disaster/article31448119.ece




1. We have 56% more water in reservoirs than we had last year: Gajendra Singh Shekhawat


—The plentiful rains last year and heavy snowfall in the Himalayan States have ensured that in terms of just volumes, we are pretty well off this year.

—We have 56% more water than we had last year in the reservoirs, which is 47% higher than the average for the last 10 years. Therefore, in terms of reservoirs etc. we have no worries.

Water is a State subject.


Effect of COVID-19 on Jal Jeevan Mission:

—The Jal Jeevan Mission was launched by hon’ble Prime Minister in September last year and it is a time-bound programme, with its urgency underlined by the fact that COVID-19 is accompanied by lockdowns and the emphasis on hand-washing as a preventative.


About Jal Jeevan Mission:

—It is a central government initiative under the Ministry of Jal Shakti, aims to ensure access of piped water for every household in India.

—The mission's goal is to provide to all households in rural India safe and adequate water through individual household tap connections by 2024.

The Har Ghar Nal Se Jal programme was announced by Finance Minister in her Budget 2019-20 speech. This programme forms a crucial part of the Jal Jeevan Mission. The programme aims to implement source sustainability measures as mandatory elements, such as recharge and reuse through grey water management, water conservation, and rain water harvesting.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/there-is-enough-water-to-get-us-through-this-period-both-for-drinking-and-irrigation-gajendra-singh-shekhawat/article31444999.ece


2. Chakmas, Hajongs starving in Arunachal, says rights body


— Delhi-based rights body has sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention in ensuring food for the Chakma and Hajong communities in Arunachal Pradesh who have allegedly not been included in the government’s economic package.

—The Chakmas and Hajongs, displaced in the 1960s by violence and a dam in erstwhile East Pakistan, were settled in parts of Arunachal Pradesh.

—Reminding that denial of food was a violation of the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution, he requested the Prime Minister to provide the two communities rice at the subsidised price till June or any time as may be extended by the Centre.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/chakmas-hajongs-starving-in-arunachal-says-rights-body/article31447579.ece