Daily Current Affairs : 17th and 18th June

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. India – China Clash
  2. Dexamethasone 
  3. Ejecta Blanket
  4. AIIB
  5. Norms for HFCs
  6. PM CARES
  7. Bioremediation
  8. Facts for Prelims

1 . India – China Clash


Context : Twenty Indian personnel, including a Colonel, were killed in violent clashes with Chinese troops on Monday along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, in what is possibly the worst incident between the two countries in decades. 

Details of the Clash

  • After the meeting at the level of Corps Commanders on June 6, negotiations had been conducted between local military commanders of both the armies for a mutually agreed disengagement process.
  • As part of that process, a buffer zone had been agreed to be created between the LAC and the junction of the Shyok and Galwan rivers to avoid any faceoff between the two armies. The two armies were to move back by a kilometre each in that area as a first step.
  • When Colonel B Santosh Babu, who was monitoring this process, noticed that a Chinese camp was still existing in the area, he went to get it removed. This soon led to fisticuffs and blows being exchanged, resulting in deaths and injuries.

Were the Indian soldiers not carrying weapons?

  • They dont carry wapons as per the drill followed by both sides in the border areas to avoid inadvertent escalation by opening fire.
  • This is in tune with the 1996 agreement between the two countries on Confidence Building Measures in the Military Field Along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Areas, which imposed a lot of restrictions on military equipment, exercises, blasts, and aircraft in the vicinity of the LAC.

Casualty

  • Seventeen Indian troops who were critically injured in the line of duty at the standoff location and exposed to sub-zero temperatures in the high altitude terrain have succumbed to their injuries, taking the total that were killed in action to 20
  • The Chinese government or the PLA too, have not provided any details of soldiers killed or injured in the clash. The only numbers that have come from are from the news agency ANI, which has quoted unnamed sources claiming that as per radio transmission intercepts, 43 Chinese soldiers were either killed or injured in the clash. Another report in usnews.com has cited “American intelligence” to say that 35 Chinese troops, including an officer, are believed to have died.

Past incidents

  • While faceoffs and standoffs keep occurring on the LAC and even stone throwing and fist-fights between troops due to differences in perception on the alignment, there has been no instance of firing on the 3,488 km long LAC since 1975.
  • The last incident of firing and fatalities on the border with China occurred in October 20, 1975 when a patrol team of the Assam Rifles was ambushed by the Chinese troops at Tulung La in Arunachal Pradesh resulting in the death of four personnel.

2 . Dexamethasone


Context : Researchers in England say they have the first evidence that the widely available steroid called dexamethasone reduced deaths by up to one third in severely ill ventilated patients.

About the News

  • The observation was based on a clinical trial called RECOVERY (Randomised Evaluation of COVid-19 therapy) to test potential treatments for Covid 19, including a steroid treatment with low-dose dexamethasone.
  • The drug was given either orally or through an IV. After 28 days, it had reduced deaths by 35 per cent in patients who needed treatment with breathing machines and by 20 per cent in those only needing supplemental oxygen. It, however, did not appear to help less ill patients.
  • Dexamethasone is also “the first drug to be shown to improve survival in COVID-19”. 

What is dexamethasone?

  • Dexamethasone is a steroid drug typically used to reduce inflammation.
  • According to the NHS, “steroid tablets, also called corticosteroid tablets, are a type of anti-inflammatory medicine used to treat a range of conditions.
  • They can be used to treat problems such as allergies, asthma, eczema, inflammatory bowel disease and arthritis.”

How it is Helpful in COVID

  • Steroid drugs reduce inflammation, which sometimes develops in COVID-19 patients as the immune system overreacts to fight the infection.
  • This overreaction can prove fatal, so doctors have been testing steroids and other anti-inflammatory drugs in such patients.
  • The World Health Organization advises against using steroids earlier in the course of illness because they can slow the time until patients clear the virus.

Results of Clinical Trial

  • As part of the RECOVERY trial, Dexamethasone was tested on 2104 patients who received 6 mg of the drug once per day for ten days and were compared with 4321 patients randomised to usual care alone.
  • Based on these results, “one death would be prevented by treatment of around 8 ventilated patients or around 25 patients requiring oxygen alone.”
  • Overall dexamethasone reduced the 28-day mortality rate by 17% with a highly significant trend showing greatest benefit among those patients requiring ventilation, researches estimated.

Other Methods in the ongoing Trial

  • Other methods of treatment in the ongoing trial includes the HIV drug Lopinavir-Ritonavir, antibiotic Azithromycin, anti-inflammatory treatment Tocilizumab, and Convalescent plasma. 
  • Hydroxychloroquine, the malaria drug promoted by US President Donald Trump, has been stopped due to lack of efficacy.
  • The research is funded by government health agencies in the United Kingdom and private donors including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

3 . Ejecta Blanket


Context : The Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court has sought reports on the environmental impact assessment of Lonar lake from National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) and the Geological Survey of India.

About the News

  • A Division Bench of Justices Sunil Shukre and Anil Kilor was hearing a petition filed by one Kirti Nipankar, raising concerns over the lake water which has turned pink in colour.
  • There is a glass formation over the surface of the bed rock of the Lonar crater, which is a basalt rock. This is a new feature not found anywhere else on the Earth and only on the beds of craters existing on moon.
  • According to the court “The expert team from NEERI and the Geological Survey of India shall examine the findings regarding glass formation on surface of the crater lake by collecting requisite samples and analysing them, and submit their reports within a period of four weeks.”
  • The forest department also informed the Bench that since the area is an eco-sensitive zone, the construction of Lonar-Kinhi road would be a problem, as there is a large quantity of a unique material called ejecta blanket, which contains is a substance found on the moon.

Ejecta Blanket

  • An ejecta blanket is a blanket of debris surrounding an impact crater.
  • It is composed of material ejected from the crater during its formation, and is laid down with stratigraphy inverted from that of the bedrock.
  • Many Martian craters are surrounded by fluidized ejecta blankets which have flowed across the surface. In contrast, lunar ejecta blankets are due mostly to ballistic sedimentation

4 . Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank


Context: Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has approved a $750-million loan to India to help strengthen its response to the adverse impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on millions of poor and vulnerable households.

About the News

  • The budgetary support will go towards bolstering economic aid for businesses, including for the informal sector, expanding social safety nets for the needy, and strengthening the country’s healthcare systems.
  • It is co-financed by the Asian Development Bank

Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank

  • The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is a multilateral development bank with a mission to improve social and economic outcomes in Asia.
  • Headquartered in Beijing,it began operations in January 2016 and have now grown to 102 approved members worldwide.
  • It mainly invests in sustainable infrastructure and other productive sectors in Asia and beyond
  • India is a founding member of AIIB

About Asian Development Bank

  • The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is a regional development bank established on 19 December 1966, which is headquartered in Manila, Philippines.
  • ADB assists its members, and partners, by providing loans, technical assistance, grants, and equity investments to promote social and economic development
  • From 31 members at its establishment in 1966, ADB has grown to encompass 68 members—of which 49 are from within Asia and the Pacific and 19 outside.
  • ADB in partnership with member governments, independent specialists and other financial institutions is focused on delivering projects in developing member countries that create economic and development impact.
  • ADB is an official United Nations Observer.

 As a multilateral development finance institution, ADB provides:

  • loans
  • technical assistance
  • grants

Operational Priorities

  • addressing remaining poverty and reducing inequality
  • accelerating progress in gender equality
  • tackling climate change, building climate and disaster resilience, and enhancing environmental sustainability
  • making cities more livable
  • promoting rural development and food security
  • strengthening governance and institutional capacity
  • fostering regional cooperation and integration

Where does ADB get its funding?

  • ADB raises funds through bond issues on the world’s capital markets.
  • Members’ contributions, retained earnings from lending operations, and the repayment of loans are other sources of funding
  • ADB also provide loans and grants from a number of special funds

5 . Norms for Housing Finance Companies


Context: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has proposed stringent norms for housing finance companies by mandating 75% of their home loans to individual borrowers by 2024.

About Housing Finance Company

  • A housing finance company is considered a non-banking financial company (NBFC) under the RBI’s regulations.
  • Housing Finance Companies are regulated by National Housing Bank
  • National Housing Bank is a wholly owned subsidiary of Reserve Bank of India. Reserve Bank of India contributed the entire paid-up capital.The general superintendence, direction and management of the affairs and business of NHB vest, under the Act, in a Board of Directors. The Head Office of NHB is at New Delhi.

New norms

  • A company is treated as an NBFC if its financial assets are more than 50% of its total assets and income from financial assets is more than 50% of the gross income.
  • The central bank also proposed a minimum net-owned fund (NOF) of ₹20 crore as compared to ₹10 crore now. Existing HFCs would have to reach ₹15 crore within a year and ₹20 crore within two years. 
  • At least 50% of net assets should be in the nature of ‘qualifying assets’ for HFCs, of which at least 75% should be towards individual housing loans.
  • Such HFCs which do not fulfil the criteria will be treated as NBFC – Investment and Credit Companies (NBFC-ICCs) and will be required to approach the RBI for conversion of their Certificate of Registration from HFC to NBFC-ICC,
  • The NBFC-ICCs which want to continue as HFCs would have to follow a roadmap to make 75% of their assets individual housing loans. The target has been set at 60% by March 31, 2022, 70% by March 31, 2023, and 75% by March 31, 2024.

Qualifying Assets

  • The RBI defined ‘qualifying assets’ as loans to individuals or a group of individuals, including co-operative societies, for construction/purchase of new dwelling units, loans to individuals for renovation of existing dwelling units, lending to builders for construction of residential dwelling units.
  • All other loans, including those given for furnishing dwelling units, loans given against mortgage of property for any purpose other than buying/construction of a new dwelling unit/s or renovation of the existing dwelling unit/s, will be treated as non-housing loans.

6 . PM CARES, NDRF and PMNRF


Context: The Supreme Court sought a response from the government to a plea that contributions made to the PM CARES Fund to fight COVID-19 should be transferred entirely to the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF).

About the Petition

  • The petition filed by Centre for Public Interest Litigation asked the court to issue a writ, order or direction to the Union of lndia to utilise NDRF for providing assistance in the fight against COVID-19 in compliance with Section 46 of the Disaster Management Act, all the contributions/grants from individuals and institutions shall be credited to the NDRF.
  • As per the petition all the funds collected in the PM CARES Fund till date may be directed to be transferred to the NDRF

National Disaster Response Fund

  • The National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF), constituted under Section 46 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, supplements SDRF of a State, in case of a disaster of severe nature, provided adequate funds are not available in SDRF.
  • The Disaster Management Act defines “disaster” to mean a catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence in any area, arising from natural or man-made causes, or by accident or negligence which results in substantial loss of life or human suffering or damage to, and destruction of, property, or damage to, or degradation of, environment, and is of such a nature or magnitude as to be beyond the coping capacity of the community of the affected area.
  • In the event of a disaster of ‘a severe nature’, in which the funds needed for relief operations exceeded the balances in the SDRF account, additional assistance would be provided from the NDRF after following prescribed procedures.
  • NDRF amount can be spent only towards meeting the expenses for emergency response, relief and rehabilitation.
  • For projects exclusively for the purpose of mitigation, i.e, measures aimed at reducing the risk, impact or effect of a disaster or threatening disaster situation a separate fund called National Disaster Mitigation Fund has to be constituted
  • Ministry of Home Affairs oversee utilisation of release of funds from NDRF

About State Disaster Response Fund

  • The State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF), constituted under Section 48 (1) (a) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, is the primary fund available with State Governments for responses to notified disasters.
  • The Central Government contributes 75% of SDRF allocation for general category States/UTs and 90% for special category States/UTs (NE States, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir).
  • The annual Central contribution is released in two equal installments as per the recommendation of the Finance Commission.
  • SDRF shall be used only for meeting the expenditure for providing immediate relief to the victims.
  • SDRF is located in the ‘Public Account’ under ‘Reserve Fund’. (But direct expenditures are not made from Public Account.)
  • If the amount available under the SDRF is not sufficient, states can request for making available assistance from a similar fund managed by the central Government – National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF).
  • Disasters covered under SDRF
    • Cyclone, drought, earthquake, fire, flood, tsunami, hailstorm, landslide, avalanche, cloudburst, pest attack, frost and cold waves.
    • Local Disaster: A State Government may use up to 10 percent of the funds available under the SDRF for providing immediate relief to the victims of natural disasters that they consider to be ‘disasters’ within the local context in the State and which are not included in the notified list of disasters of the Ministry of Home Affairs subject to the condition that the State Government has listed the State specific natural disasters and notified clear and transparent norms and guidelines for such disasters with the approval of the State Authority, i.e., the State Executive Authority (SEC).

PM – Cares Fund

Background

  • Keeping in mind the need for a dedicated national fund with the primary objective of dealing with any kind of emergency or distress situation, like that 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.
  • It is set up as a public charitable trust with the trust deed registered on March 27, 2020.

Objectives

  • 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 upgradation 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 are 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 has also got 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.

Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF).

  • The Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) was set up in January 1948, originally to accept public contributions for the assistance of Partition refugees.
  • The resources of the PMNRF are now utilized primarily to render immediate relief to families of those killed in natural calamities like floods, cyclones and earthquakes, etc. and to the victims of the major accidents and riots.
  • Assistance from PMNRF is also rendered, to partially defray the expenses for medical treatment like heart surgeries, kidney transplantation, cancer treatment and acid attack etc.
  • The fund consists entirely of public contributions and does not get any budgetary support.
  • The corpus of the fund is invested in various forms with scheduled commercial banks and other agencies. Disbursements are made with the approval of the Prime Minister.
  • PMNRF has not been constituted by the Parliament.
  • The fund is recognized as a Trust under the Income Tax Act and the same is managed by Prime Minister or multiple delegates for national causes.
  • The PMNRF was originally managed by a committee which included the Prime Minister and his deputy, the Finance Minister, the Congress President, a representative of the Tata Trustees and an industry representative. However, in 1985, the committee entrusted the entire management of the fund to the Prime Minister, who currently has sole discretion for fund disbursal.
  • PMNRF is exempt under Income Tax Act, 1961 under Section 10 and 139 for return purposes. Contributions towards PMNRF are notified for 100% deduction from taxable income under section 80(G) of the Income Tax Act, 1961.
  • Prime Minister is the Chairman of PMNRF and is assisted by Officers/ Staff on honorary basis.

7 . Bioremediation


Context: A team of The Energy and Research Institute (TERI) and an accredited private agency have begun assessing the impact on the environment around the Baghjan natural gas well that caught fire after a blowout, Oil India Limited (OIL) officials said on Wednesday.

Background

  • On June 9, 2020, a massive fire engulfed the Baghjan oil well of Assam. The well of the Oil India Limited had blown out on May 27, 2020 and has been leaking gas for the past 14 days.

Location of the well and impact of blowout

  • The well in eastern Assam’s Tinsukia district adjoins the sensitive Maguri-Motapung wetland and is close to the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park that houses some wild horses.
  • There have been reported tremors in the area and also some impact on the vegetation.

Steps taken to douse the well fire

  • Bioremediation : Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are components of crude oil sludge, constitute serious environmental concerns, as many of them are cytotoxic, mutagenic and potentially carcinogenic. Improper management and disposal of oil sludge causes environmental pollution. Bioremediation can degrade the oil sludge to less toxic compounds such as carbon dioxide, water and salts.
  • To kill the well fire before capping the blowout certain steps such as erection of heat shield has been completed

About Bioremediation

  • Bioremediation is a process used to treat contaminated media, including water, soil and subsurface material, by altering environmental conditions to stimulate growth of microorganisms and degrade the target pollutants.
  • Biological treatment is a similar approach used to treat wastes including wastewater, industrial waste and solid waste.
  • Most bioremediation processes involve oxidation-reduction (Redox) reactions where a chemical species donates an electron (electron donor) to a different species that accepts the electron (electron acceptor). During this process, the electron donor is said to be oxidized while the electron acceptor is reduced.
  • Common electron acceptors in bioremediation processes include  oxygen, nitrate, manganese (III and IV), iron (III), sulfatecarbon dioxide and some pollutants (chlorinated solvents, explosives, oxidized metals, and radionuclides). Electron donors include sugars, fats, alcohols, natural organic material, fuel hydrocarbons and a variety of reduced organic pollutants.

Types of Bioremediation

  • In situ — It involves treatment of the contaminated material at the site.
  • Ex situ — involves the removal of the contaminated material to be treated elsewhere.

8 . Facts for Prelims


Nepal – Bharat Maitri

  •  Nepal-Bharat Maitri: Development Partnership as a high impact community development scheme by India
  • India pledges to construct sanitation facility at Nepal’s iconic Pashupatinath Temple under the scheme
  • Pashupatinath Temple is the largest temple complex in Nepal and stretches on both sides of the Bagmati River and sees thousands of worshippers from Nepal and India 
  • Temple is listed under the UNESCO World Heritage site.

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