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Daily Current Affairs – 04th Jan. 2021

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Daily Current Affairs

Given below are the daily current affairs for 04th Jan 2021. You can take the daily current affairs quiz here for free.

POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

Assam’s doubtful citizens get a Centre to learn their rights

Context:

  • 100 volunteers have teamed up with lawyers to arm the people with knowledge about the Constitution

Details:

  • The Constitution centre in Barpeta district of Assam was inaugurated recently.
  • Teaching of the Constitution of India to “doubtful” Indians in a village named Aditpur by local activists and youth is a truly commendable job.

Doubtful voters:

  • Those persons whose citizenship was doubtful or was under dispute were categorized as ‘D- Voters’ during the preparation of National Register of Citizens in Assam.
  • Doubtful voters are not eligible to cast their vote in elections as their Indian citizenship is not confirmed. They are also barred from contesting elections in the country. The marking as a doubtful voter is a temporary measure and cannot be prolonged. A decision in a definite period of time must be taken
  • D- Voters also have the option to apply and get their names included in NRC. They will be included only after they get clearance from the Foreigners Tribunals and their names are removed from electoral rolls under the ‘D’ category.
  • The large majority of D-voters belong to vulnerable sections and are not aware of the nitty-gritty of the NRC process and are largely unaware of their rights and privileges.

Youth activism:

  • Local activists and youth opened a Sambidhan Kendra (Constitution Centre) at Aditpur.
  • Scores of people marked ‘D’ (doubtful voters) and facing citizenship issues have been pouring into the centre to know their status.
  • Assam has over 5 lakh people who are being deprived of their citizenship rights because of having been struck off voters’ list and being slapped with notices as suspected foreigners.
  • The Sambidhan Kendra is a pioneering initiative to make people aware of their citizenship rights.
  • Simplifying the Constitution for the mostly poor and illiterate or barely literate people struggling to prove their citizenship, is not the only objective of the centre run by about 100 sevaks (volunteers).
  • The centre organises an assembly of advocates and aspiring lawyers to update on cases of D-voters and suspected foreigners being handled, and motivate each other to help “victims of the system” get justice.

Social service:

  • The prerequisite for being a part of the Kendra is to offer free service unconditionally.
  • While the advocates associated with the centre offer free legal service, the sevaks assist them in making documents ready and running other errands.

Conclusion:

  • The initiative by youth and the local activists deserve applause, this initiative can be a template to be followed in other parts of the country where there is a significant number of people that are not aware of the rights guaranteed to them by the constitution.
  • It is very important that these organisations are encouraged via policy and financial support to create legal awareness in the country.

ENVIRONMENT

 Assam throws a lifeline to its only Ramsar site

Context:

  • The Kamrup (Metropolitan) district administration authorities have banned community fishing in Deepor Beel to prevent over-exploitation and preserve the only Ramsar site of Assam
  • The ban has meant that the community fishing is prohibited in Deepor Beel, a wetland on the south-western edge of Guwahati and Assam’s only Ramsar site.

Details:

  • The authorities took recourse under Section 144 of the Cr. P.C to issue prohibition orders
  • It was aimed at curbing over-exploitation by the community, it is expected to continue beyond the mid-January Magh or Bhogali Bihu that is preceded by mass fishing in many parts of the State.
  • Some people from the villages around and adjoining Deepor Beel Wildlife Sanctuary, in tandem with people from various fringe parts of Guwahati city have been involved in community fishing for some time now.

Shrinking in size:

  • The order was justified by the authorities to prevent the wetland from shrinking further. According to hydrological experts, the area of the wetland was about 6,000 hectares in the late 1980s. Satellite imagery has revealed that its area has shrunk by at least 35% since 1991.
  • The order will prevent fishing, excavation and construction in and around the wetland that will help in the survival of the wetland.

Ramsar site:

  • Ramsar site tag was given to Deepor Beel in 2002 for sustaining a range of aquatic life forms besides 219 species of birds.
  • A Ramsar site is a wetland designated to be of international importance under the Convention on Wetlands, in the Iranian city of Ramsar.

Threats to Ramsar site:

  • Losing connectivity with small rivers such as Kalmoni, Khonajan and Basistha that used to flow via the Mora Bharalu channel through Guwahati has also contributed significantly to the shrinkage.
  • Expansion of the city, encroachment upon the natural channels through Guwahati and from the hills around, and a municipal waste dump at Boragaon almost on the edge of the wetland were the other factors.

Conclusion:

  • The proactive step was taken by the district administration to protect the Ramsar site, Deepor Beel, from overexploitation due to excessive fishing has to be lauded.
  • This has to be followed by identifying the factors that have aided its shrinkage and adequate steps have to be taken to remedy it.

HEALTH

India Approves Two COVID-19 Vaccines for Emergency Use

Context:

In a significant development, the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) has formally approved Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech vaccines for restricted emergency use against COVID-19 in India.

Background:

Neither Covishield nor Covaxin has completed the crucial Phase-3 trial, under which a vaccine candidate is administered to volunteers at multiple locations across the country.

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  • The approval was based on a recommendation by a Subject Expert Committee which deliberated for two days on granting approvals to the vaccines.

About Covishield:

  • Covishield has been developed by Oxford University in collaboration with Astrazeneca.
  • Pune-based Serum Institute of India is their manufacturing and trial partner.
  • It uses a replication-deficient chimpanzee viral vector based on a weakened version of a common cold virus.
  • This virus causes infections in chimpanzees and contains the genetic material of the SARS-CoV-2 virus spike protein.

About Covaxin:

  • Covaxin is developed by Bharat Biotech and it is India’s first indigenous vaccine against Covid-19.
  • Bharat Biotech has developed this vaccine in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research and National Institute of Virology.
  • It is an inactivated vaccine which is developed by inactivating (killing) the live microorganisims that cause the disease.
  • This destroys the ability of the pathogen to replicate, but keeps it intact so that the immune system can still recognise it and produce an immune response.

Is it safe?

WHO has welcomed the authorisation but there are many who fear the vaccine and the safety of it all. Surveys have found that many Indians are in no rush to get vaccinated. Experts also believe that more information about the vaccine trials should be published.

What is the process of getting an emergency use authorisation in India?

Experts and activists say India’s drug regulations do not have provisions for a EUA, and the process for receiving one is not clearly defined or consistent.

  • Despite this, CDSCO has been granting emergency or restricted emergency approvals to Covid-19 drugs during this pandemic for remdesivir and favipiravir.

Is there a risk in using a product that has only been granted an emergency use authorisation?

According to the US FDA, the public has to be informed that a product has only been granted an EUA and not full approval.

  • In the case of a Covid-19 vaccine, for example, people have to be informed about the known and potential benefits and risks, and the “extent to which such benefits or risks are unknown”, and that they have a right to refuse the vaccine.

Free vaccination first for three crore health, frontline workers

Context:

  • The COVID-19 vaccination dry run is being watched closely as it is a precursor to the eventual vaccine rollout.

Details:

  • The Health Minister declared that COVID-19 vaccination will be provided to three crore healthcare and frontline workers in the first phase of vaccination for free of cost.

Dry run:

  • A dry run is a process that will help the government assess the readiness for the COVID-19 immunization at the national level.
  • It will also highlight any shortcomings in the mechanism laid out for the coronavirus vaccine drive so that we can address them before time and avoid any difficulty or problems during the actual immunization process
  • The details of 27 crore priority beneficiaries — those above 50 years of age and those below it having co-morbidities — is also being finalised.
  • The drive is to clear the decks for the full-scale rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine across the country.
  • The run will test the operational feasibility in the use of Co-WIN application in the field environment and to identify the challenges.

Vaccine hesitancy:

  • Vaccination hesitancy refers to delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite the availability of vaccine services. It is complex and context-specific varying across time, place and vaccines and is influenced by factors such as complacency, convenience and confidence.
  • The minister cited the example of vaccine hesitancy during polio immunization programme previously to put across a point that vaccine hesitancy is not a new phenomenon.
  • He further added that the people should not be misguided by rumours surrounding the safety of the vaccine and its efficacy.

India cultures new coronavirus strain

Context:

  • India has successfully cultured the new coronavirus strain, which was first reported in the U.K., the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)

Details:

  • The emergence of a new coronavirus strain in the United Kingdom has raised alarms over the unknown features of the strain, the efficacy of the vaccine.
  • Thus it requires a deeper study of the new strain before further questions surrounding could be answered.

Culturing of the new strain:

  • Culture is the process by which cells are grown under controlled conditions, generally outside their natural environment.
  • The U.K.-variant of the virus, with all signature changes, is now successfully isolated and cultured at the National Institute of Virology (NIV) from the clinical specimens collected from U.K.-returnees
  • ICMR said that vero cell lines were used by the scientists of ICMR-NIV to culture the U.K.-variant of the virus.
  • The ICMR has claimed that India is at the pole position in reporting the successful isolation and culture of the new variant of SARS-CoV-2.

FSSAI Slashes Limit for Transfat Levels in Foods

Context:

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has capped the amount of trans fatty acids (TFA) in oils and fats to 3% for 2021 and 2% by 2022 from the current permissible limit of 5% through an amendment to the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restriction on Sales) Regulations.

Background:

The revised regulation applies to edible refined oils, vanaspati (partially hydrogenated oils), margarine, bakery shortenings and other mediums of cooking such as vegetable fat spreads and mixed fat spreads.

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Need for:

Transfats are associated with an increased risk of heart attacks and death from coronary heart disease.

  • According to the World Health Organization, approximately 5.4 lakh deaths take place each year globally because of the intake of industrially produced trans fatty acids.
  • The WHO has also called for the global elimination of transfats by 2023.

What are Trans fats?

  • Trans fatty acids (TFAs) or Trans fats are the most harmful type of fats which can have much more adverse effects on our body than any other dietary constituent.
  • These fats are largely produced artificially but a small amount also occurs naturally. Thus in our diet, these may be present as Artificial TFAs and/ or Natural TFAs.
  • Artificial TFAs are formed when hydrogen is made to react with the oil to produce fats resembling pure ghee/butter.
  • In our diet the major sources of artificial TFAs are the partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (PHVO)/vanaspati/ margarine while the natural TFAs are present in meats and dairy products, though in small amounts.

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Scottish Independence Referendum

Context:

Boris Johnson has suggested Scotland should not hold another independence referendum until at least the 2050s, shrugging off claims that Brexit has strengthened the case for a new vote.

When was the last referendum held?

Referendum for Scottish independence was held in 2014. Scotland had voted to remain in the UK.

When did Scotland and England unite?

The Act of Union between Scotland and England was signed on Jan. 16, 1707. It came into effect on May 1 of that year, creating the United Kingdom of Britain. The Scottish Parliament was dissolved, and a single Parliament was created at Westminster in London.

Why did Scotland and England join in the first place?

Scotland and England have a complicated history, but the short answer is that Scotland needed an economic boost. The country’s finances were a mess after a failed attempt to establish a trading colony in Panama. This unsuccessful scheme was conclusive evidence that Scotland’s future prosperity was best served by union.

What is the main case for independence?

  • Those who support independence believe Scotland “would be richer” if it breaks from England.
  • Proponents of independence want Scotland to make its own decisions about how resources are controlled and money is invested.
  • Rather than investing billions of pounds in nuclear weapons, for example, they would focus on things like childcare or programs to retain talent and encourage young Scots to stay.

China Amends Defence Law to Boost War Preparedness

Context:

China’s National Defence Law has been amended.

Key changes:

  • Gives the Central Military Commission (CMC) greater power in mobilising resources to protect a new and broader definition of what constitutes the national interest.
  • Experts say the phrase “development interests” included the protection of China’s economic activities and assets overseas, such as those under the Belt and Road Initiative, as a reason for defence mobilisation.
  • The amendment broadened the scope of key security fields beyond land borders, maritime and air defence, to include outer space and electromagnetic networks.
  • The amendment also said China “will participate in global security governance, join multilateral security talks and push for and set up a set of international rules that is widely accepted, fair and reasonable”.

Implications:

The change comes amid a push for closer civil-military fusion, with a target to make the PLA a “world class” military, or on par with the United States military, by 2049, when the People’s Republic of China turns 100.


MISCELLENOUS

Mannathu Padmanabhan

Context:

PM pays tribute to Sri Mannathu Padmanabhan on his Jayanti.

About Mannathu Padmanabhan:

  • Mannathu Padmanabhan (1878 – 1970) was an Indian social reformer and freedom fighter from Kerala.
  • He took part in anti-untouchability agitations and advocated opening temples for people of all castes.
  • He also participated in the Vaikom Satyagraha.
  • He is also known for his founding of the Nair Service Society (NSS).

International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO)

Context:

The International Financial Services Centres Authority (IFSCA) has become an Associate Member of the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO).

IFSC in India:

  • The first International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) in the country has been set up at the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT) in Gandhinagar.
  • To regulate such institutions, the government established IFSCA on April 27 last year with its head office in Gandhinagar.
  • In December 2019, Parliament passed a bill to set up a unified authority for regulating all financial activities at IFSCs in the country.

About IOSCO:

  • It is the international body that brings together the world’s securities regulators and is recognized as the global standard setter for the securities sector.
  • IOSCO develops, implements and promotes adherence to internationally recognized standards for securities regulation.
  • It works intensively with the G20 and the Financial Stability Board (FSB) on the global regulatory reform agenda.

Members:

IOSCO was established in 1983. Its membership regulates more than 95% of the world’s securities markets in more than 115 jurisdictions; securities regulators in emerging markets account for 75% of its ordinary membership.

“Atmosphere & Climate Research-Modelling Observing Systems & Services (ACROSS)” scheme:

Context:

The scheme was recently reviewed by the Ministry of Earth Sciences.

ACROSS Scheme:

  • ACROSS scheme pertains to the atmospheric science programs of the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES).
  • It addresses different aspects of weather and climate services, which includes warnings for cyclone, storm surges, heat waves, thunderstorms etc.
  • Each of these aspects is incorporated as nine sub-schemes under the umbrella scheme “ACROSS” and is implemented in an integrated.

Benefits of the Scheme:

  • The scheme will provide improved weather, climate and ocean forecast and services, thereby ensuring transfer of commensurate benefits to the various services.
  • It will also provide a sizable number of scientific and technical staff along with requisite administrative support, thereby generating employment.
  • To ensure last-mile connectivity of the weather based services to the end -user, a large number of agencies like the Krishi Vigyana Kendras of ICAR, Universities and local municipalities are roped in thus generating employment opportunities to many people.

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