IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


29th April, 2020



1. Coronavirus | Health Ministry does a U-turn on plasma therapy


—Health Ministry stated that Plasma therapy is not an approved treatment for COVID-19 and is only one of the several therapies, which is being explored currently. It is still at an experimental stage and the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) is currently studying its efficacy.

—The Health Ministry statement comes days after the Drug Controller-General of India gave permission to proceed to a proposal by the ICMR for the clinical trial of convalescent plasma therapy in COVID-19 patients as per the protocol developed by ICMR.


Plasma treatment

—It is done by taking blood plasma from a cured COVID-19 patient to treat positive cases to effectively strengthen the immune system.

—The Ministry had last week asked the Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS) to contact recovered COVID-19 patients to come forward for blood donation, from which convalescent plasma could be collected and used for transfusion to the COVID-19 affected patients for their early recovery.

—In 2014, convalescent plasma, collected from patients, who had recovered from Ebola virus disease, was recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as an empirical treatment during the outbreak.

—During the H1N1 virus outbreak of 2009 and SARS epidemic of 2003, plasma therapy was used to treat patients.


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 DGCI

—Drugs 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.

—Drug Controller General of India comes under the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.

—DCGI sets standards for manufacturing, sales, import, and distribution of drugs in India.



DCGI lays down the standard and quality of manufacturing, selling, import and distribution of drugs in India.

—Acting as appellate authority in case of any dispute regarding the quality of drugs.

—Preparation and maintenance of national reference standard.

—To bring about the uniformity in the enforcement of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act.

—Training of Drug Analysts deputed by State Drug Control Laboratories and other Institutions

Analysis of Cosmetics received as survey samples from CDSCO (central drug standard control organisation)


About IRCS

—The Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS) 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.


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.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/coronavirus-indias-health-ministry-does-a-u-turn-on-plasma-therapy-says-its-not-an-approved-treatment-for-covid-19/article31454571.ece


2. Coronavirus | $1.5 billion ADB loan to fund COVID-19 emergency response


—The Government of India has taken a $1.5 billion loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to fund its immediate response to the corona virus (COVID-19) pandemic, both in terms of the health and socio-economic impacts.

—The bank is also in talks with the government to fund further economic stimulus measures, including support for Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and for extending health services through public-private partnerships.

—The loan, approved by the ADB under its COVID-19 Active Response and Expenditure Support (CARES) Programme, is the bank’s largest ever to India.

—The Centre will also take the ADB's technical support to strengthen its implementation framework and capacities to deliver the Rs. 1.7 lakh crores welfare package announced last month.

—This would include support for the MSMEs by facilitating access to finance through credit guarantee schemes, integration into global and national value chains through enterprise development centres, and a credit enhancement facility for infrastructure projects.

—Another major agenda would be supporting the extension of comprehensive primary health services in urban areas, and of secondary and tertiary health care systems through the public-private partnership mode.


About ADB

— The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is a regional development bank established on 19 December 1966, which is headquartered in the Ortigas Center located in the city of Mandaluyong, Metro Manila, Philippines. The company also maintains 31 field offices around the world to promote social and economic development in Asia.

—The bank admits the members of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP, formerly the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East or ECAFE) and non-regional developed countries. From 31 members at its establishment, ADB now has 68 members.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/business/15-billion-adb-loan-to-fund-covid-19-emergency-response/article31457062.ece




1. Government starts planning for Haridwar Kumbh Mela


—The government has begun planning for the Maha Kumbh Mela in Haridwar, Uttarakhand, in January 2021.

—The gathering has a long history and draws large crowds from the world over, who come to take a ritualistic dip in the Ganga.

—The Maha Kumbh Mela is organised once in 12 years, and the last time the event was held in 2010, about 10 million had reportedly congregated in the city.

—For organising the event, the State has sought ₹85 crores from the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) for creating 16,075 community toilets (these are made of fibre and portable) and 20,000 community urinals.

—The meeting was, as is the norm in the government now, convened via videoconference and had officials from the NMCG, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Uttarakhand and is held every month to decide on funding for projects to clean the Ganga as well as its tributaries.

—A similar Kumbh was organised in Prayagraj in 2019.

—Because of its being a novel corona virus, there’s no clarity on whether the virus will continue to be as contagious in winter. The first reports of the virus originated in China in late November.


About NMCG

— National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) was registered as a society on 12th August 2011 under the Societies Registration Act 1860.

—It acted as implementation arm of National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA), which was constituted under the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act (EPA), 1986.

—NGRBA has since been dissolved with effect from the 7th October 2016, consequent to constitution of National Council for Rejuvenation, Protection and Management of River Ganga (referred as National Ganga Council)


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/government-starts-planning-for-haridwar-kumbh-mela/article31458254.ece


2. Animal poaching registers a sharp increase during lockdown


—The instances of poaching of wild animals and birds, including the endangered chinkara or Indian gazelle, have registered a sharp increase across Rajasthan during the COVID-19 lockdown, with the hunters taking advantage of slack monitoring and sparse public movement in the remote areas.

—Besides killing chinkaras and blackbucks, the poachers have targeted peacocks, grey francolins and other birds covered under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, as endangered species.

—During the last one week, instances of chinkara poaching were reported in Pali, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Nagaur districts.

—Several of the cases were detected and reported to the forest authorities by the members of the Bishnoi community, which is known for its beliefs associated with nature worship and wildlife conservation.

—Four motorcycle-borne poachers killed a chinkara near Olwada village adjoining the Ranthambore National Park in Sawai Madhopur district on Saturday.

—The chinkaras are usually poached in Rajasthan, allegedly by the Bawaria community, whose traditional occupation is hunting.


About The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972

—It is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted for protection of plants and animal species. Before 1972, India had only five designated national parks. Among other reforms, the Act established schedules of protected plant and animal species; hunting or harvesting these species was largely outlawed.

—The Act provides for the protection of wild animals, birds and plants; and for matters connected there with or ancillary or incidental thereto. It extends to the whole of India. It has six schedules, which give varying degrees of protection.

Schedule I and part II of Schedule II provide absolute protection - offences under these are prescribed the highest penalties.

—Species listed in Schedule III and Schedule IV are also protected, but the penalties are much lower.

Schedule V includes the animals, which may be hunted.

—The specified endemic plants in Schedule VI are prohibited from cultivation and planting.

—The hunting to the Enforcement authorities have the power to compound offences under this Schedule (i.e. they impose fines on the offenders)


About Ranthambhore National Park

—It is a national park in northern India, initially covering 282 km² at the time it was formed. Ranthambhore was established as the Sawai Madhopur Game Sanctuary in 1955 by the Government of India and was declared one of the Project Tiger reserves in 1973.

—Ranthambhore became a national park on 1 November 1980. In 1984, the adjacent forests were declared the Sawai Man Singh Sanctuary and Keladevi Sanctuary.

—In 1992, the Tiger Reserve was expanded to include the adjoining Keladevi Sanctuary in the north and Sawai Mansingh sanctuary to the south along with other forests.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/animal-poaching-registers-a-sharp-increase-during-lockdown/article31457809.ece


3. Mid-day meals on during vacation


—The Centre plans to extend the mid-day meal scheme in government schools over the summer holidays due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

—An extra ₹790 crores would be provided to buy pulses, vegetable, oil, spices and fuel by hiking the annual allocation for cooking costs. The Centre will also provide 3 lakh tonnes of food grains, worth approximately ₹990 crores.

—However, reports from States suggest that the current implementation of the mid-day meal scheme has been patchy and variable across different regions.

—While Kerala is providing actual cooked meals delivered to the homes of poor students, a large number of other States, including Karnataka and West Bengal, are providing dry rations to students’ families in lieu of cooked meals during the lockdown.

—Nationwide, 11.5 crores children studying in Class 1 to 8 in 11.34 lakh schools depend on the scheme for a nutritious lunch.


About The Mid-day Meal Scheme

—It is a school meal programme of the Government of India designed to better the nutritional standing of school-age children nationwide.

—The programme supplies free lunches on working days for children in primary and upper primary classes in government, government aided, local body, Education Guarantee Scheme, and alternate innovative education centres, Madarsa and Maqtabs supported under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, and National Child Labour Project schools run by the ministry of labour.

— Under article 24, paragraph 2c of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which India is a party, India has committed to yielding "adequate nutritious food" for children. The programme has undergone many changes since its launch in 1995. The Midday Meal Scheme is covered by the National Food Security Act, 2013.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/mid-day-meals-on-during-vacation/article31457235.ece


4. Coronavirus | NDRF gears up for floods during pandemic


—With monsoon around the corner, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) is preparing to face the twin challenge of corona virus (COVID-19) and floods in different parts of the country.

—The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has forecast a normal monsoon, which is expected to hit Kerala on June 1.

—The organisation has been in constant touch with the IMD and the local administration in the respective States.

—Assam, which witnesses heavy rains and flash floods during monsoon, leading to several deaths and displacement of lakhs of people in the affected areas, had asked for monsoon pre-deployment of NDRF teams.

—Following the COVID-19 outbreak, NDRF teams in several States joined the local administration in implementing the preventive measures and distributing essentials, including medical supplies.

—They also stepped in to alleviate the problems faced by thousands of stranded migrant labourers, particularly in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

—The NDRF is a part of the control rooms set up in the States on the directions of the Union Home Ministry to supervise lockdown measures.


About NDRF

—The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) is a specialised force constituted "for the purpose of specialist response to a threatening disaster situation or disaster" under the Disaster Management Act, 2005.

—The Chairman of the NDMA is the Prime Minister.

—The responsibility of managing disasters in India is that of the State Government. The ‘Nodal Ministry’ in the central government for management of natural disasters is the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

—When 'calamities of severe nature' occur, the Central Government is responsible for providing aid and assistance to the affected state, including deploying, at the State's request, of Armed Forces, Central Paramilitary Forces, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), and such communication, air and other assets, as are available and needed.

—National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) is under the National Disaster Management Authority. The head of the NDRF is designated as Director General.

—The Director Generals of NDRF are IPS officers on deputation from Indian police organisations. Director General wears the uniform and badges of rank of an army three-star general.


About IMD

—The India Meteorological Department (IMD) is an agency of the Ministry of Earth Sciences of the Government of India. It is the principal organization responsible for meteorological observations, weather forecasting and seismology.

—IMD is headquartered in Delhi and operates hundreds of observation stations across India and Antarctica. Regional offices are at Mumbai, Kolkata, Nagpur and Pune.

—IMD is also one of the six Regional Specialised Meteorological Centres of the World Meteorological Organization.

—It has the responsibility for forecasting, naming and distribution of warnings for tropical cyclones in the Northern Indian Ocean region, including the Malacca Straits, the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/coronavirus-ndrf-gears-up-for-floods-during-pandemic/article31457655.ece


5. Deccan farmers may face long dry spells in June, July like last year


—While the India Meteorological Department has predicted a normal monsoon, spatial forecast models show wide variations in rainfall across the country, which can have dire implications for farmers, especially on the northeastern coast and the dry land areas of the Deccan.

—There could be a possibility of dwindling rainfall in June and July in the rain fed regions of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana, Marathwada and Vidharbha regions of Maharashtra, which could affect rain fed crops, official sources said.

—The spatial forecast is provided by the South Asia Seasonal Climate Outlook Forum, which includes a number of national agencies led by the World Meteorological Organisation.


About South Asia Seasonal Climate Outlook Forum

—South Asian nations, supported by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), have been conducting the South Asian Seasonal Climate Outlook Forum (SASCOF) since 2010.

—SASCOFs prepare consensus seasonal climate information on a regional scale that provide a consistent basis for preparing national level outlooks.


About WMO

—The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is an intergovernmental organization with a membership of 193 Member States and Territories.

—The President of the World Meteorological Congress, its supreme body, is Gerhard Adrian as a successor of David Grimes. The organization is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/deccan-farmers-may-face-long-dry-spells-in-june-july-like-last-year/article31456735.ece


6. Coronavirus lockdown | No improvement in Ganga water quality


—The lockdown in the wake of corona virus (COVID-19) outbreak may have dramatically reduced air pollution across the country but it hasn’t significantly reduced pollution in the Ganga, according to a report by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

The dissolved oxygen (DO) concentration, a measure of the amount of free oxygen available in river systems, “rose marginally” from March 22-April 15. A high DO value is considered a good indicator of river health.

—However, two other measures, BOD (Biological Oxygen Demand) and COD (Chemical Oxygen Demand) both indicators of the amount of oxygen necessary to break down organic and inorganic pollution showed “insignificant reductions”, the CPCB report notes. The lower these numbers are the better they indicate river health.


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 also 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/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/coronavirus-lockdown-no-improvement-in-ganga-water-quality/article31457326.ece




1. Signalling support: On RBI relief for mutual funds



—The Reserve Bank of India’s decision to open a special facility to ensure the availability of adequate liquidity for the mutual fund industry is a timely move in signalling to investors that the central bank is alert to the need to preserve financial stability in these challenging times.

—In assigning ₹50,000 crores exclusively for commercial banks to lend to mutual funds, the RBI made cleared, that it wants to tamp down on any build-up of liquidity strains at mutual fund houses in the wake of heightened volatility in the capital markets and increased redemption pressures as a fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

—The proximate trigger for the central bank’s move was last week’s announcement by Franklin Templeton Mutual Fund that it was winding up six debt funds — funds that collectively had assets under management (AUM) amounting to about ₹26,000 crores.



—The RBI has rightly recognised the urgent need to ward off any incipient contagion impact from the closure of these six funds.

—With the overall industry-wide AUM for debt funds at about ₹15-lakh crores, it was crucial for the banking regulator to reassure investors that liquidity need not be a concern while deciding on whether to retain or redeem their investments in these mutual funds.



—While the facility is a straightforward 90-day repo-based lending window from which banks can avail credit to provide loans to mutual funds, there are concerns about the banking industry’s willingness to expose itself to the credit risk involved in making these fresh loans.

—From allowing banks to breach their 25% ceiling on held-to-maturity investments as a consequence of lending to mutual funds, to exempting the support extended from banks’ overall capital market exposure limits, the central bank has sought to ease the flow of credit to the fund houses.

—Still, if the recent experience of getting lenders to support the non-banking financial companies through a targeted long-term repo operation backed by ₹50,000 crores is any pointer, clearly the banking industry — beset by bad loans — appears to have little appetite for adding any credit that it deems risky.

—Moreover, with the economy still in lockdown and the credit ratings of even relatively well-established companies facing a real and not-too-distant threat of downgrades, how willing banks would be to use this facility to lend to debt mutual funds remains to be seen.

—The Centre may need to be ready to step in with direct intervention if the RBI’s gambit fails to ease the pressure on mutual funds.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/signalling-support-the-hindu-editorial-on-rbi-relief-for-mutual-funds/article31457485.ece


2. Bharti, Nokia ‘connect’ for strong network


—Telecom equipment maker Nokia has secured a nearly $1 billion deal from Bharti Airtel to enhance the capacity of its networks, 4G in particular, for nine circles.

—Bharti Airtel announced a multi-year agreement to deploy Nokia’s SRAN solution across nine circles in India. While the financial details of the deal were not disclosed, an industry source pegged it at close to $1 billion.

—The roll-out, which will also lay the foundation for providing 5G connectivity in the future, will see approximately 3,00,000 radio units deployed across several spectrum bands, including 900 Mhz, 1800 Mhz, 2100 Mhz and 2300 Mhz, and is expected to be completed by 2022.

—These Nokia-supplied networks will give Airtel the best possible platform when 5G networks launch across the country, with their low latency and faster speeds.

—India is the second largest telecom market in the world and is expected to reach 920 million unique mobile customers by 2025, which will also include 88 million 5G connections, according to the GSMA.


SRAN solution

—Nokia’s SRAN solution helps operators to manage their 2G, 3G and 4G networks from one platform reducing network complexity, increasing cost efficiencies, and future-proofing investment. —The deal will also include Nokia’s RAN equipment, including its AirScale Radio Access, AirScale BaseBand and NetAct OSS solution, which will help Airtel to monitor and manage its network effectively.

—Nokia Global Services will also play a crucial role in the installation, planning and deployment of the project, which will be executed via the cloud-based Nokia Delivery Platform..


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/business/bharti-nokia-connect-for-strong-network/article31457082.ece


3. Manufacturing of PPE coveralls ramped up


—The capacity to produce coveralls in the country has been ramped up to more than one lakh units a day, according to an official press release.

—Bangalore has emerged as the hub for manufacture of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), accounting for nearly 50% of the production.

—Other places that have a large number of approved production units are Tiruppur, Chennai, Coimbatore, Ahmadabad, Vadodara, Ludhiana and Bhiwandi. Large-scale garment units in Bangalore had taken to PPE coverall production in a big way. Some of these companies, that have scale of manufacturing, have invested in additional machinery as well.

—A large number of non-woven textile manufacturers in Coimbatore-Erode belt in Tamil Nadu supply fabric to the coverall producers.

—The release added that four laboratories in India have the synthetic blood penetration resistance test facilities and necessary approvals to conduct tests and certify body coveralls required for COVID-19.

—A unique certification code is generated for the prototype samples sent to these labs by the manufacturers of fabric and coveralls and the results are published on the websites of DRDO, OFB and SITRA.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/business/manufacturing-of-ppe-coveralls-ramped-up/article31457319.ece




1. Niti Aayog questions Australian institute’s terror ranking of India


—A report compiled by Niti Aayog has questioned the methodology adopted by an Australian based institute to rank India as the seventh worst terrorism affected country ahead of conflict-ridden countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Sudan, Burkina Faso, Palestine and Lebanon.

—The report also questions the opaque funding of the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP).

—India has moved to the seventh position from the previous year’s eighth in the annual Global Terrorism Index (GTI) 2019. The countries ahead of it are Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Syria, Pakistan and Somalia.


Impact on investments

—An official said the positioning in the global indices affected investments and other opportunities.

—GTI scores are directly used in the Global Peace Index, the Global Slavery Report published by the Walk Free Foundation, and indirectly used in computing country scores in the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness and Global Competitiveness Indices and compilation of Safe Cities Index by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

—In 2017, India wrote to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) challenging its ranking in a global slavery report compiled by Australia’s Walk Free Foundation.


Based on GTD

—The GTI report issued by the IEP is based primarily on the Global Terrorism Database (GTD) collated by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland, besides other sources.


NITI Aayog’s Stand:

—The preliminary report prepared by the government think tank said the GTD was based solely on unclassified media articles, with more than 100 structured variables such as each attack’s location, tactics and weapons, perpetrators, casualties and consequences etc.

—It added that the Australian government’s Charities and Not-for-profits Commission did not reveal any data about the IEP’s funding sources.

—The large diversity in definitions of terrorism amongst countries, and the lack of a universally accepted definition of terrorism, including in the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism pending in the UN General Assembly since 2014, leads to a great deal of ambiguity in calculating and understanding GTI reports.

—The report said that IEP’s economic impact of terrorism model does not account for costs for countering violent extremism and long-term economic impacts on business activity, production and investment.

—The report concluded that the absence of a robust data collection and analysis methodology, and any engagement with Governments facing the scourge of terrorism, means that the Global Terrorism Index has low direct value for policymakers and cannot be used as an aid to understand and alleviate challenges to countries from domestic and cross border terrorism.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/niti-aayog-questions-australian-institutes-terror-ranking-of-india/article31455989.ece


2. Anti-corruption law covers deemed varsities too: Supreme Court


—In a significant ruling, the Supreme Court has held that bribery and corruption in a deemed university can be tried under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

—Individuals, authorities or officials connected to a deemed university, whatever be their role or designation, come under the definition of a ‘public servant’. They can be tried and punished under the anti-corruption law, the court said.

—Deemed universities come within the ambit of the term ‘university’ in Section 2(c)(xi) of the Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act, 1988.

—A deemed institution under the University Grants Commission Act of 1956 has the same common public duty like a university to confer academic degrees, which are recognised in the society.

—Officials of a deemed varsity, though not seen as public servants in the conventional sense, perform duties in the discharge of which the State, the public and the community at large has an interest, a three-judge Bench led by Justice N.V. Ramana reasoned in a judgment pronounced on April 27.


Aim of PC Act

—The object of the PC Act was not only to prevent the social evil of bribery and corruption, but also to make the same applicable to individuals who might conventionally not be considered public servants.

—“The purpose under the PC Act was to shift focus from those who are traditionally called public officials, to those individuals who perform public duties. Keeping the same in mind, it cannot be stated that a deemed university and the officials therein, perform any less or any different a public duty,” Justice Ramana observed.


Gujarat’s appeal

—The judgment came on an appeal filed by the Gujarat government against a trustee of Sumandeep Charitable Trust, which established and sponsors Sumandeep Vidyapeeth, a deemed university.

— The State police had filed a case in 2017 against the trustee for allegedly demanding ₹20 lakh from the parent of a medical student to write her final examination. The Gujarat High Court had discharged the trustee from the case.

—The apex court set aside the High Court order and ordered that the trial be completed expeditiously.

—The court, however, noted that prima facie a “grave suspicion” has been made out against the trustee, but a further detailed appreciation of evidence is required to decipher his actual position vis-a-vis the deemed university.


Highlights of the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Act, 2018:

—Punishment for bribe taking enhanced: Minimum punishment of 3 yrs, extendable up to 7 yrs with fine; from the earlier 6 months, with extension up to 3 yrs.

—‘Undue Advantage’ expanded: The earlier limited definition of “undue advantage” expanded to now include “anything other than legal remuneration”.

—Gifts criminalised: Gifts received for established undue advantage/mala-fide motive are now considered an act of corruption.

—Collusive bribe-givers criminalised: For the first time, the giving of bribe has now been made a direct offence on par with taking of bribe. At the same time, protection has been built-in against coercive bribery, as long as the victim comes forward within 7 days.

—Corporate bribery criminalised: Superiors to be held if employee/agent has bribed with their approval, for advancement of the organisation’s interests.

—Immediate forfeiture: Law enforcement empowered for immediate attachment & forfeiture of illegal property of a public servant, invoking provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

—Timely trial mandated: To conclude the investigation and trial within 2 yrs, extendable up to 4 yrs.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/anti-corruption-law-covers-deemed-varsities-too-supreme-court/article31457413.ece


3. U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom downgrades India in 2020 list


—The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has downgraded India to the lowest ranking, “countries of particular concern” (CPC) in its 2020 report.

—The report, released in Washington by the federal government commission that functions as an advisory body, placed India alongside countries, including China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

—India was categorised as a “Tier 2 country” in last year’s listing. This is the first time since 2004 that India has been placed in this category.

—“India took a sharp downward turn in 2019,” the commission noted in its report, which included specific concerns about the Citizenship Amendment Act, the proposed National Register for Citizens, anti-conversion laws and the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.

—The Centre reacted sharply to the USCIRF report on Tuesday, terming it “biased and tendentious” and rejected its observations.

—The commission also recommended that the U.S. government take stringent action against India under the “International Religious Freedom Act” (IRFA).

—It called on the administration to “impose targeted sanctions on Indian government agencies and officials responsible for severe violations of religious freedom by freezing those individuals’ assets and/or barring their entry into the United States under human rights-related financial and visa authorities, citing specific religious freedom violations”.

—In 2005, Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was at the time the Chief Minister of Gujarat was censured by the USCIRF. The commission had recommended sanctions against Mr. Modi for the 2002 riots and the U.S. government had subsequently cancelled his visa.

—The USCIRF 2020 report makes a specific mention of Home Minister Amit Shah, for not taking what it deemed as sufficient action to stop cases of mob lynching in the country, and for referring to migrants as “termites”.



—The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is a U.S. federal government commission created by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998.

— USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and the leadership of both political parties in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

—USCIRF's principal responsibilities are to review the facts and circumstances of violations of religious freedom internationally and to make policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and the Congress.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/uscirf-downgrades-india-in-2020-list/article31457624.ece




1. BRICS should help entrepreneurs: India


—Member countries of the BRICS group should assist private entrepreneurs to help them deal with the economic fallout of the corona virus (COVID-19) pandemic, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar.

—The Minister showcased India’s pharmaceutical support to around 85 countries to deal with the viral infection.

— Mr. Jaishankar also highlighted the need for reforms in the multilateral bodies like the United Nations. Noteworthy that the UN Security Council members are currently discussing draft resolutions on the COVID-19 pandemic.



—BRICS is the acronym coined for an association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Originally the first four were grouped as "BRIC" (or "the BRICs"), before the induction of South Africa in 2010.

—The BRICS members are known for their significant influence on regional affairs; all are members of G20.

—Since 2009, the BRICS nations have met annually at formal summits. China hosted the 9th BRICS summit in Xiamen on September 2017, while Brazil hosted the most recent 11th BRICS summit on 13-14 November 2019.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/brics-should-help-entrepreneurs-india/article31457562.ece


2. South Asia faces health crisis as children miss vaccination


—South Asia could face a further public health crisis as children miss routine vaccinations, the UN warned, spurring fears that the fallout from the pandemic might reverse hard-earned gains in the region.

—The United Nations children’s agency UNICEF said hundreds of thousands were at risk as lockdowns across South Asia halted immunisation drives and parents refrained from taking their children to doctors to be inoculated.

—Bangladesh and Nepal have halted their measles and rubella campaigns while Pakistan and Afghanistan have suspended their polio drives since the COVID-19 pandemic.

—UNICEF noted that “sporadic” outbreaks of preventable diseases that can be cured with vaccines, including the measles and diphtheria, have emerged in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal.

—Vaccine stocks were also running low in some countries in the region thanks to lockdowns and travel bans, which have disrupted supply chains.

—It added that as long as health workers take hygiene precautions, there was no reason for vaccinations not to continue.

—The agency estimated that 4.5 million of South Asia’s children had already missed out on routine immunisations, even before the pandemic struck.

—Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan were struggling to vaccinate children as local populations viewed inoculation teams with suspicion.

—Opposition grew after the CIA organised a fake vaccination drive to help track down al-Qaeda’s former leader Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad.



The United Nations Children's Fund is a United Nations agency responsible for providing humanitarian and developmental aid to children worldwide.

—Based in U.N. headquarters in New York City, it is among the most widespread and recognizable social welfare organizations in the world, with a presence in 192 countries and territories.

— UNICEF's activities include immunizations and disease prevention, administering treatment for children and mothers with HIV, enhancing childhood and maternal nutrition, improving sanitation, promoting education, and providing emergency relief in response to disasters.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/south-asia-faces-health-crisis-as-children-miss-vaccination/article31457054.ece