IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


30th March, 2020


PMO working in teams to battle virus

Contrary to the “war room” narrative, the PMO has been working in small teams (10 teams looking at various aspects of the crisis were set up additionally on Sunday).

Mandates for different teams:

-       Taking care of the medical aspects of the crisis in terms of treatments, protocols, how to enforce them and coordinate with international agencies.

-       Coordination with the Chief Secretaries of all States and looking into requests for expediting regulatory permissions for treatment equipment and kits.

-       Technical issues like the creation of apps for monitoring the virus are handled by the IT Ministry.

-       Ensuring the smooth running of the supply chains and logistics.

-       PM believes that the challenge needs to be fought with unity and a positive morale, that is why; a series of video conferences with different stakeholders like media (print and TV), industrialists and radio jockeys were held.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/pmo-working-in-teams-to-battle-virus/article31202163.ece


EPF scheme members handed COVID-19 lifeline

About the scheme:

-       The notification permits withdrawal not exceeding the basic wages and dearness allowance for three months or up to 75% of the amount standing to member’s credit in the EPF account.

-        Employees Provident Fund (EPF) scheme is the main scheme under the Employees’ Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952. The scheme is managed under the aegis of Employees' Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO).

-        It covers every establishment in which 20 or more persons are employed and certain organisations are covered, subject to certain conditions and exemptions even if they employ less than 20 persons each.

-        Under EPF scheme, an employee has to pay a certain contribution towards the scheme and an equal contribution is paid by the employer. The employee gets a lump sum amount including self and employer’s contribution with interest on both, on retirement.

-        As per the rules, in EPF, employee whose ‘pay’ is more than Rs. 15,000 per month at the time of joining, is not eligible and is called non-eligible employee. Employees drawing less than Rs 15000 per month have to mandatorily become members of the EPF.

About Employees' Provident Fund Organization:

-         The Employees' Provident Fund Organization (abbreviated to EPFO), a statutory body formed by the Employees' Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952.

-         It is under the administrative control of the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India.

-         EPFO assists the Central Board in administering a compulsory contributory Provident Fund Scheme, a Pension Scheme and an Insurance Scheme for the workforce engaged in the organized sector in India.

-         It is also the nodal agency for implementing Bilateral Social Security Agreements with other countries on a reciprocal basis.

-         It is the largest social security organizations in World in terms of the number of covered beneficiaries and largest in India interms of the volume of financial transactions undertaken.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/epf-scheme-members-handed-covid-19-lifeline/article31202158.ece

Gond tribal’s in Panna survive on roti and salt

About Gond tribe:

-       The Gond are an Indian ethnic group.

-       They speak Gondi language which is a Dravidian language.

-       They are one of the largest tribal groups in India.

-       They are spread over the states of Madhya Pradesh, eastern Maharashtra (Vidarbha), Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Odisha.

-       They are listed as a Scheduled Tribe for the purpose of India's system of positive discrimination.

-       Like many other tribes, Gonds worship a high god known as Baradeo, whose alternate names are Bhagavan, Sri Shambu Mahadeo, and Persa Pen.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/gond-tribals-in-panna-survive-on-roti-and-salt/article31202200.ece


Air quality improves in over 90 cities

According to the Centre-run System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR):

-       The measures against COVID-19 have led to a drop in PM2.5 (fine particulate pollutant) by 30% in Delhi and by 15% in Ahmedabad and Pune, respectively.

-       The level of Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) pollution, which can increase the risk of respiratory conditions, has also reduced.

-       In Pune, NOx pollution has reduced by 43%, in Mumbai, by 38% and in Ahmedabad, by 50%.

-       Generally in March, pollution is in the “moderate” category (Air Quality Index range: 100-200) while currently, it is in the “satisfactory” (AQI 50-100) or “good” (AQI 0-50) category.

About Air Quality Index:

-       An AQI between 0-50 is considered good, 51-100 satisfactory, 101-200 moderate, 201-300 poor, 301-400 very poor and 401-500 severe.

-       It tells you how clean or polluted your air is, and what associated health effects might be a concern for you.

-       The Central Pollution Control Board along with State Pollution Control Boards has been operating National Air Monitoring Program (NAMP) covering 240 cities of the country having more than 342 monitoring stations.

-       The proposed AQI considers eight pollutants (PM10, PM2.5, NO2, SO2, CO, O3, NH3, and Pb).

About SAFAR:

-       SAFAR envisages a research based management system where strategies of air pollution mitigation go hand in hand with nation’s economic development to target a win-win scenario.

-       The SAFAR system is developed by Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, along with ESSO partner institutions namely India Meteorological Department (IMD) and National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF).

-       Under the plan scheme “Metropolitan Advisories for Cities for Sports, Tourism (Metropolitan Air Quality and Weather Services), Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), Govt. of India, has introduced a major national initiative, "System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research" known as "SAFAR" for greater metropolitan cities of India

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-life/air-quality-improves-in-over-90-cities/article31202108.ece

Himalayan Ibex a distinct species

A recent study by scientists of the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) has proved that Himalayan Ibex, distributed in the trans-Himalayan ranges of Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh, is a distinct species from the Siberian Ibex.

-       Genetic analysis proved that Himalayan ibex is separate species than Siberian ibex.

About Siberian ibex:

-       Siberian Ibex is a species of wild goat and is distributed in diverse habitats, ranging from cold deserts, rocky outcrops, steep terrain, high-land flats and mountain ridges to low mountains and foothills.

-       From Mongolia, its distribution extends towards Altai, Hangai, Gobi-Altai, the Hurukh mountain ranges as well as Sayan Mountains near Russia.

Himalayan ibex:

-       The Ibex does not always migrate to lower heights in winter and mostly stays at fairly high altitude using windblown ridges.

-       Unlike other caprids, the Ibex is known to dig crates through snow to access forage in winter.

-       They are found in Trans Himalayas region of Ladakh and the Greater Himalayas and Pir Panjals of Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh.

-       It grazes on alpine pastures and wet meadows but always close to rocky precipitous terrain.

About Zoological survey of India:

-       The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) was established on 1st July 1916 to promote survey, exploration and research leading to the advancement in our knowledge of various aspects of exceptionally rich life of the erstwhile ´ British Indian Empire.

-       The survey has its genesis in the establishment of the Zoological Section of the Indian Museum at Calcutta in 1875.

-       It has many important publications:

-       Faunal resources of India, Red Data Books, Environmental Awareness, Ecosystems of India, Geo Spatial Atlas of Birds of Rajasthan, etc.

-       The ‘Handbook series’ publications are identification manuals of major groups of animals with keys and illustrations.

-       Ecosystem series to study the different ecosystems of the country viz. Estuarines, Wetlands, Himalaya, Marine, etc. 

-       Conservation area services to survey, study and document the fauna of reserve forests of our country in order to suggest the conservation measures based on the monitoring and inventorying works.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-life/himalayan-ibex-a-distinct-species/article31202105.ece


An inadequate lockdown package

Challenges in the Package:

-       One kilo of pulses in the event of rising prices of pulses don’t count even as charitable exercise.

-       The actual additional funds allocated by the government for alleviating economic distress caused by measures to control the spread of SARS-CoV-2 are much smaller and mainly notional.

-       Pension to widows, disabled and senior citizens of 1000 rs is not a universal scheme. Only a meagre percentage of population avail them.

-       Other countries have guaranteed up to 70% to 80% of workers’ wages to prevent lay-offs, the Indian government limits it to a subsidy on EPF. If workers are thrown out of employment, what good would this be?

-       Though government claims that hike in MGNREGA wages would benefit 5 crores families, but the average workdays are just between 45 to 49 days a year, which means a less than Rs. 1,000 annual benefit from the measly wage increase. 

-       Home ministry guidelines have made agricultural work as non-essential in nature, which means that MGNREGA labor cannot be engaged in agricultural work.

-       The District Mineral Fund, which is legally mandated to be used for tribal welfare in mining-affected districts, is now to be used by State governments for meeting COVID-19-related expenditure. It is unethical to divert the funds meant for most exploitative section to meet financial responsibilities of the centre.

Way Forward:

-       Government must include other essential items in the PDS list like sugar.

-       Conditionalities should be waived off in order to make it reach to all poor.

-       Migrant workers reaching in their villages may not have the ration cards, in such times, government must provide benefits to these workers too. Their presence in the village must be taken as proof of poverty.

-       It should also be provided to migrants residing in the urban areas.

-       A lockdown which is considered essential to fight SARS-CoV-2 cannot lead to a disproportionate burden on the poor.

-       The government must expand its package to ensure that the spectre of SARS-CoV-2 is not replaced by the spectre of hunger and suffering for the majority of Indians. 

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/an-inadequate-lockdown-package/article31202138.ece

Explained: Where does virus go from here?

The number of people infected with the novel corona virus in India crossed the 1,000 mark. 

Possible end of the virus:

-       Blocking at the source but it required complete isolation of every possible covid patient, which has not happened in India.

-       Development of herd immunity where community transmission leads to increase in infection of substantial population. In the process, population develops an immunity to the virus. This entire process can normally take six months to a year.  In any case, this process can be very painful, depending on how lethal the virus is.

-       A vaccine comes which halts the further continuation of the virus.

-       Due to some reason, possibly unsuitable climatic conditions, the virus is not able to survive long enough in a geographical region, thus losing its potency to infect large numbers. Some scientific research has indicated a vulnerability of this virus in high temperatures, but the evidence is not yet conclusive.

-       The population may have a pre-existing immunity to the virus. In the case of SARS-CoV2, there is no evidence to suggest that the Indian population has any special pre-existing immunity.

Most plausible end:

-       Development of herd immunity through community transmission. In the olden days, this is how most disease outbreaks used to unfold. The death toll in these outbreaks would depend on the nature of the virus. 

Reasons to be cautious:

-       Letting the virus spread and take its toll would be “considered extremely unethical”.

-       Practical difficulties: if the virus is allowed to spread rapidly in a country like India, that 5-7% would translate into huge numbers, beyond what its medical infrastructure could handle.

Importance of Lockdown:

-       By confining a majority of the population to their houses, and limiting their contact with other people, the spread of the virus can be significantly slowed down.

-       It would give authorities the time needed to ramp up medical capabilities, create emergency infrastructure, and prepare itself to deal with large influx of patients who would inevitably arrive.

Reference: https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/coronavirus-lockdown-india-covid-19-test-where-does-virus-go-from-here-6337768/