Daily Current Affairs : 7th July

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. World Drug Report
  2. MGNREGA
  3. Airborne Transmission of Corona Virus
  4. Reservation in Private Sector
  5. India-China Deescalation
  6. Bubonic Plague
  7. Facts for Prelims

1 . World Drug Report


Context: According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) 2020, World Drug Report, the fourth-highest seizure of opium in 2018 was reported from India, after Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

About the Report

  • The World Drug Report is a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime annual publication that analyzes market trends, compiling detailed statistics on drug markets.
  • Using data, it helps draw conclusions about drugs as an issue needing intervention by government agencies around the world.

Key Findings of the Report

  • Opium & Heroin Seizures
    • The fourth highest seizure of opium in 2018 was reported from India, after Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to the latest World Drug Report of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
    • The maximum of 644 tonnes of opium was seized in Iran, followed by 27 tonnes in Afghanistan and 19 tonnes in Pakistan. In India, the figure stood at only four tonne in 2018.
    • In terms of heroin seizure (1.3 tonnes), India was at the 12th position in the world. Again, Iran reported the highest seizure of heroin (25 tonnes), followed by Turkey, United States, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Heroin is manufactured from the morphine extracted from the seed pod of opium poppy plants.
    • The opiates seized in the largest quantity in 2018 continued to be opium (704 tonnes), followed by heroin (97 tonnse) and morphine (43 tonnes)
  • Opium Production
    • Opium is illicitly produced in about 50 countries. However, close to 97% of the total global production of opium in the past five years came from only three countries. About 84% of the total opium was produced in Afghanistan, from where it is supplied to neighbouring countries, Europe, Middle East, South Asia and Africa. A small percentage also reaches North America and the Oceania region.
    • Opium is illicitly produced in about 50 countries. However, close to 97% of the total global production of opium in the past five years came from only three countries. About 84% of the total opium was produced in Afghanistan, from where it is supplied to neighbouring countries, Europe, Middle East, South Asia and Africa. A small percentage also reaches North America and the Oceania region.
  • Area Under Opium Poppy Cultivation
    • The report said that the global area under opium poppy cultivation declined for the second year in a row in 2019. It went down by 17% in 2018 and by 30% in 2019.
    • The global area under opium poppy cultivation is nevertheless still substantially larger than a decade ago and at similar level of the global area under coca cultivation,” the report said.
    • Despite the decline in cultivation, opium production remained stable in 2019, with higher yields reported in the main opium production areas. “Taking opium consumption into account, the estimated global opium production in 2019 would have been sufficient to manufacture 472-722 tonnes of heroin..

Difference between Opium and Heroin

  • Opium is a plant-based, naturally occurring narcotic that is derived from the sap of unripe bulbs of the poppy plant. Whereas Heroin ( semisynthetic narcotic drug), uses opium as the source of the narcotic during processing.
  • In opium, morphine is the active chemical compound that leads to the high, side effects, and addiction. In Heroin processing, opium is converted into morphine, which is then synthetized into heroin.

Golden Crescent

  • Golden Crescent is the name given to one of Asia’s two principal areas of illicit opium production located at the crossroads of Central, South, and Western Asia. This space overlaps three nations, Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan, whose mountainous peripheries define the crescent.

Golden Triangle

  • The Golden Triangle is the area where the borders of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar meet at the confluence of the Ruak and Mekong rivers. Along with Afghanistan in the Golden Crescent, it has been one of the largest opium-producing areas of the world, since the 1950s. These countries are major suppliers to East and south east Asia and Oceania.

UNODC & its functions already covered under Daily Current Affairs of 26th June


2 . MGNREGA


Context: 1.4 lakh families have reached annual MGNREGA work limit

Background

  • The current pandemic has led to loss of livelihood of substantial sections of the India population.
  • With the economy, particularly production activities in the big urban centres, having come to a standstill, a process of reverse migration to villages took place.
  • This decline in economic activities is taking place against a background of continuously declining growth rates that the nation has been witnessing over the last three years.
  • MGNREGA Guarantees 100 days of wage employment per year to rural households.  It doesn’t guarantee employment for those people who have completed 100 days.

About the Issue

  • Many rural households have already completed their quota of 100 days of work and many are on the verge of running out of work in the first three months of the year, and they will not be eligible for further benefits under the scheme for the rest of the year. In the midst of pandemic this will result in thousands of unemployed workers.
  • According to central scheme data Chhattisgarh followed by Andhra Pradesh has the highest rate of households which have completed 100 days of work.
  • The demand for MGNREGA work almost doubled in June in AP, as there is no other work available for many people. Construction sector, which usually absorbs a large number of workers, has also collapsed. 
  • The monsoon seems to be good so far, and for those who can get farm work, that may be an option for the next few months. The worst scenario may be in December when agriculture work is over and the MGNREGA work has also run out

Short term Solution

  • The MGNREGA scheme contains a provision for districts affected by drought or other natural disasters to request an expansion of the scheme to allow for 150 days of work per household. Given that COVID-19 was declared a national disaster, activists have demanded that this provision be implemented immediately.

Long term Solutions

  • One of the long term solutions is that the limit should be imposed per adult individual rather than per household.
  • Second solution can be the increase in working days to 200 days per individual at a daily wage rate of ₹600. As the current wage rate of ₹200 per day does not even match up to minimum wage rates in most States.

Key features of MGNREGA

  • Legal right to work: Unlike earlier employment guarantee schemes, the Act provides a legal right to employment for adult members of rural households.  At least one third beneficiaries have to be women.  Wages must be paid according to the wages specified for agricultural labourers in the state under the  Minimum Wages Act, 1948, unless the central government notifies a wage rate
  • Time bound guarantee of work and unemployment allowance: Employment must be provided with 15 days of being demanded failing which an ‘unemployment allowance’ must be given.
  • Decentralised planning: Gram sabhas must recommend the works that are to be undertaken and at least 50% of the works must be executed by them.  PRIs are primarily responsible for planning, implementation and monitoring of the works that are undertaken.
  • Work site facilities: All work sites should have facilities such as crèches, drinking water and first aid.
  • Transparency and accountability: There are provisions for proactive disclosure through wall writings, citizen information boards, Management Information Systems and social audits.  Social audits are conducted by gram sabhas to enable the community to monitor the implementation of the scheme.
  • Funding:  Funding is shared between the centre and the states.  There are three major items of expenditure – wages (for unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled labour), material and administrative costs.  The central government bears 100% of the cost of unskilled labour, 75% of the cost of semi-skilled and skilled labour, 75% of the cost of materials and 6% of the administrative costs.

3 . Airborne Transmission of Coronavirus


Context: Recently, in an open letter to the World Health Organization (WHO), 239 scientists in 32 countries have outlined that the virus causing Covid-19 can remain airborne for a period of time and thus transmit itself. The scientists have “outlined the evidence showing that smaller particles can infect people, and are calling for the agency to revise its recommendation”.

Background

  • According to WHO Covid-19 virus is primarily transmitted between people through respiratory droplets and contact routes.
  • WHO’s viewpoint is that droplets containing the virus, produced during speech, coughing, sneezing etc, are larger than 5-10 microns in diameter and eventually succumb to gravity and fall to the ground after travelling less than 1 metre.
  • If the droplets particles are larger than 5-10 microns in diameter, they are referred to as respiratory droplets; if they are smaller than 5 microns in diameter, they are referred to as droplet nuclei.

Different modes of transmission

  • Droplet: A microscopic virus-filled particle of breath or spittle, around 5 to 10 microns — about the size of a red blood cell — that comes out of the nose or mouth of an infected individual when they breathe, speak, cough or sneeze.
    • Droplets generally fall to the ground within a few feet of thVirus-laden droplets are expelled from the nose or mouth of an infected person and find their way into nearby eyes, noses and mouths, “like if you’re standing next to your kid and they cough in your face,e person who expels them.
  • Aerosol: A virus-packed particle, smaller than 5 microns, that’s also expelled from an infected person’s mouth when breathing, speaking, coughing or sneezing. Unlike a droplet, smaller aerosol particles can remain suspended in the air. “They’ll continue to float and follow the air streams in a room
    • How a virus could spread this way: Through the respiratory route in which a person breathes in clouds of tiny virus particles that have accumulated and may be traveling on air currents.
  • Fomite : An object covered with virus particles, possibly because someone recently sneezed or coughed respiratory droplets onto it, or swiped a germ-covered hand on it. A countertop or a phone could become a fomite in that same manner. The particles could survive from several hours to several days.
    • How a virus could spread this way: Through indirect transmission if people touch the surface of a virus-covered object, pick up the virus on their hands and then introduce the virus to their eyes, nose or mouth.

What does the new findings mean?

  • A respiratory infection such as Covid-19 can be transmitted through droplets of different sizes.
  • Scientists have suggested that aerosol transmission can happen. They have cited evidence that the virus can be present in droplet nuclei (less than 5 microns in diameter) that do travel distances longer than 1 metre, and can remain in the air for a longer time.
  • If this can be established, it will mean that the risk of transmission is higher than previously thought.

WHO’s opinion on airborne Transmission

  • As per the WHO, airborne transmission may be possible in specific circumstances and settings. These include settings in which procedures that generate aerosols are performed; endotracheal intubation; bronchoscopy; open suctioning; administration of nebulised treatment; manual ventilation before intubation; turning a patient to the prone position; disconnecting a patient from the ventilator; non-invasive positive-pressure ventilation; tracheostomy; and cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

What is the evidence so far on the aerosol transmission?

  • One of the first studies, published in Nature, was conducted in Renmin Hospital and Wuchang Fangcang Field Hospital in Wuhan.
    • It investigated the aerodynamic nature of the virus SARS-CoV-2 by measuring its viral RNA in aerosols.
    • The study found that the concentration of the virus in aerosols detected in isolation wards and ventilated patient rooms was “very low”, but it was “higher in the toilet areas used by the patients”. “Levels of airborne SARS-CoV-2 RNA in the most public areas was undetectable, except in two areas that were prone to crowding,”.
  • In April, a correspondence published on NEJM by researchers from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the United States evaluated the stability of SARS-CoV-2 (and SARS-CoV-1, which causes SARS) in aerosols and on various surfaces.
    • It found that SARS-CoV-2 “remained viable in aerosols” throughout the duration of the experiment that lasted for three hours.
    • The results indicated that aerosol and fomite transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is plausible since the virus can remain viable and infectious in aerosols for hours.
    • WHO disagreed with the findings of NEJM article and has stated that the finding of COVID-19 virus in aerosol particles up to 3 hours does not reflect a clinical setting in which aerosol-generating procedures are performed and that this was an experimentally induced aerosol-generating procedure.
  • In May, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), published a study titled “High SARS-CoV-2 Attack Rate Following Exposure at a Choir Practice”. The researchers, who studied “superspreading events”, found that following 2.5-hour choir practice attended by 61 persons, including a symptomatic index patient, 32 confirmed and 20 probable secondary Covid-19 cases occurred; three patients were hospitalised, and two died.

What is the significance of this finding?

  • If the transmission is airborne then it becomes significant, especially in crowded spaces with poor ventilation. Ventilation systems in schools, nursing homes, residences and businesses may need to minimise recirculating air and add powerful new filters.
  • With this finding, containment will be more significant.
  • Masks may be needed indoors, even in socially distant settings.
  • Ultraviolet lights may be needed to kill viral particles floating in tiny droplets indoors.
  • It might be possible that N-95 masks, which are used by clinicians in hospital settings, could now be recommended to prevent aerosol transmission, subject to availability, and depending on the health condition of a person.

4 . Reservation in Private Sector


Context: The Haryana Cabinet has approved a proposal for drafting the Haryana State Employment of Local Candidates Ordinance, 2020, to provide 75% reservation to residents of the State in jobs in the private sector.

Details of the draft

  • The draft will earmark new jobs with a salary of less than ₹50,000 per month to local candidates in privately managed companies, societies, trusts, limited liability partnership firms, partnership firms etc. Employers will have the option to recruit 10% local candidates from one district. Law will cover employment providers with more than 10 employees in its premises.
  • Domicile certificate:Domicile certificate would be mandatory for the candidate to take the benefit under this scheme which would be implemented by the Labour Department. All those companies coming under the Act must register the entire data of employees on a web portal.
  • Exemption: Exemption clause will also be provided if suitable local candidates are not available for a particular category of industry. Those industries or units which hide information about the employees would face severe consequences.

Constitutional provisions on reservation

  • Article 14 of the Constitution guarantees equality before law and equal protection of laws to everyone.
  • Article 16(1) and 16(2) assure citizens equality of opportunity in employment or appointment to any government office.
  • Article 15(1) generally prohibits any discrimination against any citizen on the grounds of religion, caste, sex or place of birth.
  • Article 29(2) bars discrimination against any citizen with regard to admission to educational institutions maintained by the government or receiving aid out of government funds on grounds of religion, race, caste etc.
  • Articles 15(4) and 16(4) state that these equality provisions do not prevent the government from making special provisions in matters of admission to educational institutions or jobs in favour of backward classes, particularly the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and the Scheduled Tribes (STs).
  • Article 16(4A) allows reservations to SCs and STs in promotions, as long as the government believes that they are not adequately represented in government services.

Arguments in favor of reservation in private sector

  • This will fulfill the main purpose of reservation to allow unemployed locals or backward classes to be employed.
  • Reservation in private secor can help get rid of the problem of joblessness. 
  • Many private sector firms get government aid and tax benefits. Then why not they have a provision for quota in their jobs?
  • In metros, the hiring rate of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes by multi-national companies (MNCs) is almost negligible because of concerns over technical skills and English-speaking abilities. If reservation is introduced in the sector, they will get a fair chance of representation and learning.

Arguments against reservation in private sector

  • Private sector runs on talent and abilities. And it is a bitter fact that talent will be compromised in the reservation system.
  • Private sector is about profit making enterprises. The new law states that if locals with the necessary skills are not there, companies will have to train local workers in conjunction with the state government and then hire them, which could lead to more hassles and expenses for businesses.
  • This policy will set a bad national precedent. Now those states can cite this law as a precedent and have their own. Karnataka and Maharashtra, which have plenty of workers from Andhra Pradesh, have been thinking of making similar laws. This might lead to extreme regionalism.
  • Reservation policy has not yielded the desired results in the past and implementing a backfired policy is disastrous for the country.
  • This might become a disincentive for industries. Now with the ‘mandatory’ local labour that puts a cap on ‘competing outside labour’, the bulk of workers can work less and demand higher remunerations.
  • People from other states may not get adequate employment opportunities. As in the 2014 case—Charu Khurana vs. Union of India—when a trade union had declined membership to a make-up artist because she had not lived in Maharashtra for at least five years, as per the union’s rules. Though the trade union lost the case but the said person was discriminated against. 
  • Such provision of reservation could hinder the state’s economic growth by affecting the ease of doing business. Ease of recruiting talent is a major aspect that influences the index.
  • The end result can be loss of confidence in the industry and business moving elsewhere.

States in favour of reservation in private sector for locals:

  • Andhra Pradesh Employment of Local Candidates in the Industries/Factories Bill, 2019 passed by the Andhra Pradesh government. As per this law, 75% of jobs in industries are to be reserved for locals.
  • Even the Madhya Pradesh government had announced 70% reservation for locals in industries. 
  • The Karnataka government has also insisted that private companies provide 80% reservation in jobs for locals (Kannada-speaking people) in all categories and for this the government has already amended the Karnataka Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Rules, 1961, to reserve 100% for group ‘C’ and group ‘D’ jobs for locals in the private sector. 

5 . India – China Deescalation


Context: Three weeks after the worst military clashes in decades, India and China have begun the process of disengagement at contentious locations along the disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC), a government source said on Monday.

About the News

  • Disengagement process, a work in progress, commenced after Special Representatives (SRs) Ajit Doval and Wang Yi, tasked to hammer out a solution to the boundary dispute, spoke by telephone on Sunday evening. 
  • In the first signs of de-escalation, Chinese troops moved back some distance and dismantled tents at some locations along the LAC.
  • In the Galwan Valley, Chinese troops have shifted two kilometres from the site of the June 15 violent clashes while some tents had been removed by the PLA at Finger 4 area of Pangong Tso
  • Some rearward movement of vehicles is seen at the general area of Galwan, Hotsprings and Gogra

Can China be trusted

  • The experts have pointed out the outcome of the Doklam stand-off in 2017 as a marker and have suggested the government to not to de-escalate the situation at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh without an agreement on returning to “status quo ante” or the situation before the stand-off began.

6 . Bubonic Plague


Context : Authorities in China’s northern Inner Mongolia region have stepped up precautions after a herdsman was confirmed at the weekend to have the bubonic plague.


7 . Facts for Prelims


Doklam

  • Doklam (or Zhonglan or Donglong) is a disputed area between China and Bhutan just like Jakarlung and Pasamlung. It is an area with a plateau and a valley which lies on the Bhutan-China border, near India.
  • Doklam’s geographical position makes it a strategically important area as it is located between Tibet’s Chumbi valley to the North, Bhutan’s Ha valley to the East and India’s Sikkim state to the West.
  • The area of Doklam carries huge military advantage and if it falls into the hands of China, it will not only compromise the security of Bhutan but also of India.
  • If China comes in control of the Doklam, it will get the high ground which would enable it to completely crush Bhutan in case of a war.
  • Also, the access to the Tri-junction area (via road from Doklam) would give China easy access to transportation of war machinery such as tanks and vehicles to the border of India.
  • In this case, if a war breaks out between India and China, the latter will have an upper hand at conquering the Chickens Neck of India as well as the whole of the North-Eastern region of the country.
  • The Chickens Neck is the small area which connects the North East to rest of India.