Current Affairs Summary with Quiz 21 April 2021

India elected to three bodies of the UN ECOSOC


India was recently elected to the three bodies of the United Nations. They were the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, the Executive Board of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women and the Executive Board of the World Food Programme. All these three bodies operate under United Nations Economic and Social Council.

India was elected to all these three bodies by acclamation. Acclamation is honouring someone. Electing a member country through acclamation does not use a ballot. However, other member countries were elected through secret ballot to these bodies.

India’s term to these bodies begins on January 1, 2022.

What is Election by Acclamation in the United Nations?

When a member with a clean slate is presented for an election in the United Nations, the vote takes place through acclamation. Clean Slate means there is no history of evidence of any problems or broken rules. The Secret ballot shall be dispensed when election by acclamation takes place in the United Nations. Election by Acclamation is not allowed in all UN bodies. Election by Acclamation is completely excluded in some of the UN bodies such as the Human Rights Council.

Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice

The other countries that were elected to the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice through secret ballot were Cuba, Chile, Paraguay, Dominican Republic, Brazil. Countries such as Bahrain, Austria, Bulgaria, Belarus, France, Canada, Libya, Ghana, Qatar, Pakistan, Togo and Thailand were elected by acclamation.

Executive Board of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women

The countries that were elected to this board through acclamation were Ukraine, Turkmenistan, Thailand, South Africa, Poland, Monaco, Kenya, Guyana, Gambia, Egypt, Colombia, Cameroon, Bangladesh, Australia, Dominican Republic and Afghanistan.

Amnesty International: Global review of the death penalty


Amnesty International recently released the global Review of Death Penalty.

Key Findings of the report

  • Around 483 executions were recorded in eighteen countries according to the report published by Amnesty International.
  • In 2019, the number of executions recorded was 657.
  • The number of executions has grown by 26% in 2020 as compared to 2019.
  • The maximum number of executions happened in China, Iran, Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia in that order.
  • Around sixteen women have been executed among the 483. They were from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Oman.
  • The countries such as India, Qatar, Oman and Taiwan have resumed executions.
  • The executions in Iraq have halved from hundred in 2019 to 45 in 2020.
  • The executions in Saudi Arabia have decreased by 85%.
  • The countries used beheading, hanging, electrocution, shooting and lethal injection as methods of execution.
  • Iran executed three people for crimes that were committed by them when they were below 18 years old.
  • China, Iran and Saudi Arabia executed at least 30 people for crimes related to drugs.
  • The Asia-Pacific countries that carried out executions in 2020 were India, China, Bangladesh, North Korea, Vietnam and Taiwan. Pakistan, Singapore and Japan did not report any executions.

Executions in China

China was the leading executioner in the world. However, the exact number of executions being carried out in China is unknown. The Chinese Government holds the data of executions as classified secret and thus the exact number is unknown.

Abolition of Execution

Chad has abolished the death penalty for all crimes. Colorado has become the twenty-second state in the United States to abolish the death penalty.

COVAXIN neutralises double Mutant Strain


The Indian Council of Medical Research recently announced that COVAXIN neutralises the Double Mutant Strain of COVID-19.

Key Highlights

The National Institute of Virology recently demonstrated the neutralisation potential of COVAXIN against the Brazil variant and UK variant. The B.1.617 is a recently spreading double mutant variant of COVID-19. It carries the mutations of E484Q and also the mutations of L452R.

Also, the scientists at the National Institute of Virology have isolated and cultured all the variants of COVID-19. This includes the Brazil variant (B.1.1.28.2), UK Variant (B.1.1.7) and the South African Variant (B.1.351).

Significance

With the accelerated Phase 3 vaccination to start on May 1, 2021, it is essential to know if the vaccine is efficient against the mutants that are spreading rapidly.

Current Scenario

  • The Government of India has accelerated the Phase 3 vaccination in the country. This has been done to increase the pace of vaccination drive in the country. This is to be done by permitting state governments to buy vaccines from the manufacturers directly. Incentives are to be provided to the COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers to increase vaccine production.
  • More than 29 lakh vaccine doses are being administered in the country per day.
  • However, the COVID-19 cases in India have been increasing widely. This has led to a shortage of medical oxygen in the country. To handle the shortage, India is importing 50,000 tonnes of medical oxygen. Also, India has planned to establish 162 oxygen plants with the help of the PM CARES fund.

COVAXIN

The COVAXIN Vaccine is produced by Bharat Biotech placed in Hyderabad along with the Indian Council of Medical Research. The COVAXIN vaccine was chosen among all the other vaccines as it is highly suitable for the Indian climate. This is because COVAXIN can be stored at a temperature of two to eight degrees Celsius.

 Australia-India Indo Pacific Oceans Initiative


Australia recently launched the Australia-India Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative Partnership. The programme will support free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific. The Government of Australia has provided a grant of 1.4 million Australian dollars (Rs 8.12 crores) to support the initiative.

Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative

The Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative was launched by PM Modi at the East India Summit in 2019. The Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative aims to strengthen maritime boundaries. It has three main common goals namely welfare promotion, wealth creation and cooperation win-win strategies.
The main principle is to create partnerships between like-minded countries.

Pillars of Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative

The Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative focuses on the following central pillars:
  • Maritime Resources
  • Maritime Security
  • Maritime Ecology
  • Capacity Building and Resource Sharing
  • Disaster Risk Reduction and Management
  • Technology and Academic Cooperation
  • Trade Connectivity
  • Maritime Transport

Role of India

India has always placed ASEAN nations at the centre of the Indo Pacific Oceans Initiative. In simple terms, Indo Pacific Oceans Initiative is an extension of the Look East Policy.

India-Vietnam

In August 2020, India and Vietnam agreed to enhance their bilateral cooperation to achieve the objectives of the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative.

Background

The Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative was also launched in the backdrop of China’s aggression in the Indo-Pacific region and its actions along the Line of Actual Control. The South China Sea is a part of the Indo-Pacific region. It holds huge reserves of minerals and hydrocarbons. China claims sovereignty over most of the South China sea. The other member countries in the region such as the Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei dispute claims of China.

Crude oil output of India drops


The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas recently released its data for the fiscal year 2020-21. According to the data, crude oil production of India fell to 30.5 million tonnes. It was 32.17 million tonnes in 2019-20.

Key Highlights

The data released by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas are as follows:
Oil
  • The crude oil production of India fell by 5% in 2020-21 as compared to the previous year.
  • The Oil and Natural Gas Corporation produced 2% less oil in 2020-21 as compared to 2019-20. In 2020-21, the oil produced by ONGC was 20.2 million tonnes. The National lockdown that lasted for more than two months shut some of its fields completely.
  • Oil India Limited produced 5.4% less oil.
Natural Gas
The Natural Gas production in the year 2020-21 was at 28.67 billion cubic metres. This was 8% less than the output in 2019-20. However, in March 2021, the overall natural gas output of the country began to increase as the Reliance industries started their output from KG basin fields. The Reliance began producing Natural Gas in the KG basins in December 2020. It is now producing gas at the rate of 1.3 million cubic metres per day.
Crude Oil Refineries
  • Both the private and public sectors of India together processed 13% less crude oil in 2020-21. In 2020-21, the total amount of crude oil that was processed in the country was 221.7 million tonnes.
  • The Public Sector refineries such as the Indian Oil Corporation processed 12% less crude oil. In 2020-21, the crude oil processed by public sectors was 127.5 million tonnes.
  • During 2020-21, the refineries produced 11.2% fewer petroleum products.
Imports
  • Around 85% of India’s crude oil is imported.
  • In 2020-21, India spent 61.9 billion USD on its crude oil imports.
  • India imported 198.2 million tonnes of crude oil in 2020-21.
  • In 2019-20, India spent 101.4 billion USD on its crude oil imports.
  • In 2019-20, India imported 227 million tonnes of crude oil.
Demand
  • The demand for petroleum products in the country fell by 9% in 2020-21. In 2020-21, India consumed 194.6 million tonnes of petroleum products.
  • In 2019-20, India consumed 214.1 million tonnes of petroleum products.

Cabinet approves Subsidy for Urea produced via Coal Gasification

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs recently approved a subsidy for Urea that are to be produced by TFL. TFL is a state-run fertilizer plant. It is Talcher Fertilizer Plant.

About the Plant

  • The TFL is to commission a new fertilizer plant in Odisha. This plant will produce urea through coal gasification. The Government of India is to provide subsidy to establish the plant. It will be the only plant in India to produce nitrogenous soil nutrient through the coal gasification process.
  • Talcher Fertilizers is a joint venture of Fertilizer Corporation of India, Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers, GAIL and Coal India.
  • Talcher Fertilizer will establish a urea plant base on coal gasification technology at an estimated investment of Rs 13,277 crores.
  • The annual capacity of the plant is 1.27 million tonnes per year.
  • The plant is expected to be completed by 2023. It is currently facing delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The tender to construct the TFL project has been provided to China-based Wuhan Engineering. This has been done to promote innovative coal gasification technology.

Current Scenario of Fertilizer consumption in India

India consumed 61 million tonnes of fertilizers in 2020-21. Out of this, 55% was urea.
The import of fertilizers in India has been increasing since 2010 due to a lack of investment.
India has set a target of investing Rs 20,000 crores in coal gasification projects by 2030. This will help India reduce its dependence on imports.

Coal Gasification

It is the process of producing syngas. Syngas is a mixture of hydrogen, carbon monoxide, natural gas, carbon dioxide and water vapour. It is produced from coal and water.
The Coal Gasification adopted by Talcher Unit will release negligible nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide.

Benefits of TFL plant

Currently, India produces urea using natural gas. Import of Natural Gas is highly expensive. Therefore, India is adopting alternative routes such as coal gasification to produce urea with indigenous raw materials. The project will help India become self-sufficient in urea, reduce its dependence on imports and also use coal in an environment-friendly manner.

Civil Services Day: April 21


Every year India celebrates National Civil Services Day on April 21.

Key Highlights

  • Sardar Vallabhai Patel often referred to the Indian Administrative Service as the “Steel Frame of India”.
  • Civil Services Day is celebrated for the civil servants to rededicate themselves to the cause of citizens of the country. Also, the day motivates civil service officers to work more efficiently.
  • The Prime Minister’s Awards for Excellence in Public Administration is presented to districts for implementing priority programmes on National Civil Services Day.

About Civil Service Day

  • On this day in 1947, the then Home Minister Shri Sardar Vallabhai Patel addressed the first batch of Administrative Services Officers.
  • Sardar Vallabhai Patel was the first Home Minister of India.
  • Patel addressed the probationers at the Metcalf House, New Delhi.

Sardar Vallabhai Patel

  • Sardar Vallabhai Patel was the first Deputy Prime Minister of India. He was a barrister. Also, he served as the Home Minister of the country during the political integration of India.
  • He is called the Unifier of India for his role in unifying the princely states in the country.
  • On 31 October 2018, the Statue of Unity was dedicated to him. It is the world tallest statue. The height of the statue is 182 metres.
  • He was also called the Iron Man of India.
  • Patel was elected as the President of the Indian Nation Congress for the Karachi session of Congress that was held in 1931. The Gandhi-Irwin pact was ratified at this congress.
  • The TRIUMVIRATE that ruled India between 148 and 1950 was formed by the Governor-General of India Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, Patel and Nehru.

AAYUDH Advance Controversy


In April 2021, it was claimed that a drug called Aayudh Advance was effective against COVID-19. The trials for the drug were conducted at two government hospitals in Ahmedabad. However, the Government of India has recently rejected the claims made by the manufacturers of the drug.

AAYUDH Advance

The manufacturers of the drug claimed that the drug had positive effects against COVID-19. They also said that the patients who took AAYUDH Advance had seen a reduction of infection of the virus to a great extent.
The first human trial of the AAYUDH Advance drug was conducted in October 2020. The second trial was held in January 2021.

What is the controversy?

The Ministry of Ayush announced that the claims made by AAYUDH Advance are misleading. With this, the Food and Drug Control Administration of Gujarat issued a show-cause notice to the AAYUDH Advance drug manufacturer. The manufacturing unit of the drug is based in Rajkot.
The Shukla Ashar Private Limited, Rajkot referred the clinical study of its product, AAYUDH Advance, to the committees operating under concerned ministries. The committees have rejected the products as they do not follow the principles and study protocols of Ayurveda.
According to the company, the product is a liquid formulation and is made of twenty-one different plant extracts.

Claims made by AAYUDH

AAYUDH Advance of the first clinically tested medicine for COVID-19. The treatment of AAYUDH Advance is three times better than Remdesivir.

Background

The Ministry of AYUSH has provided separate guidelines for Practitioners of Ayurveda, Yoga, UNANI, Siddha, Homeopathy and Naturopathy in COVID-19. Every drug produced in the respective field to treat COVID-19 should abide by these guidelines.

Insurance Scheme for Health Workers under PM Garib Kalyan Yojana


The Government of India is to extend the insurance scheme for health workers under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana for another year.

Key Highlights

The current COVID Warrior Insurance Scheme that was launched by the Government of India in 2020 was to end by March 24, 2021. Thus, the GoI is extending the scheme.
The GoI had provided one month window to invite final claims under the scheme till April 24, 2021.
However, now the scheme has been extended for a period of one year after increasing concerns against the closure of the scheme.

About the Health Insurance Scheme

The Insurance Scheme for Health Workers under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana was launched in March 2020. It was launched for ninety days to provide an insurance cover up to Rs 50 lakhs to the health workers. The scheme was then extended till March 24, 2021.
The scheme provided relief to the dependents of health workers who lost their lives fighting COVID-19. The health insurance under the scheme was provided through the New India Insurance Company.
The scheme had approved 287 claims so far.

What is the issue?

When the time period of the scheme ended on March 24, 2021, GoI announced that the health insurance scheme for COVID-19 warriors is coming to an end. Notices were sent to State Governments and Union Territories regarding this. Following this, several concerns were raised that has now compelled the Government to extend the scheme for another year. The concerns raised were as follows:
  • With double mutant variant variety spreading rapidly, the number of COVID-19 cases in the country is increasing. At this stage, the closure of the scheme will put the health workers and their dependents in a highly distressed state.
  • While closing the scheme, GoI did not specify how many health workers lost their lives.
  • Also, it did not mention the total number of claims received by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare under the insurance scheme.

People’s Bank of china report on India’s demographic advantage


The Central Bank of China, that is, the People’s Bank of China recently released a report on Demographics.

Report on Demographics of China

  • According to the report, the strict birth policies of China has led to the problem of a dwindling workforce and the problem of the ageing population. Dwindling means gradually diminishing.
  • The report also said that the Chinese Government should liberalise birth policies to tackle the problems of the ageing population.
  • China is to experience negative growth after 2025.
  • After 2025, China will face a shortage in consumer demand.
  • The working population of China has been declining since 2010. This has largely affected the supply side of the Chinese economy. This is to hit China very badly as the Chinese Government has planned to drive its growth through domestic consumption.

Report on Demographics of India

  • The report said that the gap between India and China has been narrowing. On one hand, the economic growth of China has been faster than India’s. On the other hand, the demographic dividend of China is fading. Above all, the economic growth of India is fast approaching China.
  • The declining birth rate and ageing population of China will become more serious in ten years. On the other side, India’s demographic structure will be much optimised in ten years.
  • India’s labour force will exceed China’s by hundreds of millions.
  • By 2050, the demographics of India will have a much wider workforce and a narrower elderly population. This will help India to grow at a faster rate.

Report about the US

  • According to the report, the United States mainly benefits from immigration.

Government waives off import duty on Remdesivir till October 31

The import of Remdesivir injections, Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API), and specific inputs have been made import duty-free till October 31, 2021. The decision by the Government has been taken amid the ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases in India.
The Ministry of Finance shared a notification on Twitter on April 20, 2021, stating that the Union Government has exempted Remdesivir API, Beta Cyclodextrin- SBEBCD which is used in the manufacture of Remdesivir- subject to the condition that the importer of Remdesivir follows the procedure set out in the Customs (Import of Goods at Concessional Rate of Duty) Rules, 2017- and Injection Remdesivir from the whole of the duty of customs leviable on their import in India.
The Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal while sharing the news on Twitter stated that in line with PM Modi’s priority to ensure the affordable medical care of Coronavirus patients, imports of Remdesivir have been made duty free.

Remdesivir for COVID-19 patients:

• Remdesivir has been approved as an investigational therapy for those COVID-19 patients who are on oxygen and have severe and moderate symptoms.
• The Central Government has undertaken an exercise for the allocation of Remdesivir injections to the stabilised one of objective criteria.
• Since the clinical guidance states that Remdesivir must be used in cases where the oxygen is also required, the allocation to the states has been based on the oxygen allocation carried out by the Empowered Group-2 to various states.
• All the states and UTs have also been asked to ensure the wise use of Remdesivir, stop the hoarding or black marketing of drugs, and also facilitate the smooth inter-state supply of the medicines.

7 Pharmaceutical companies reduce prices of the anti-viral drug:

• REMDAC of Cadila healthcare Ltd which was earlier available at Rs. 2,800, has been reduced to Rs. 899
• RemWin of Syngene International Ltd has been reduced to Rs. 2,450 from Rs. 3,950
• REDYX of Dr Reddy’s will be available at Rs. 2,700. Earlier it was Rs. 5,400
• CIPREMI of Cipla Ltd can be bought at Rs. 3,000 instead of Rs. 4,000.
• DESREM of Maylan Pharmaceutical Ltd is reduced to Rs. 3,400 instead of Rs. 4,800
• JUBI-R of Jubilant Generics Ltd will not be available at Rs. 3,400 instead of Rs. 4,700
• COVIFOR of Hetero healthcare Ltd will not be available at Rs. 3,490 instead of Rs. 5,400

Quiz

1.India was elected to three bodies of the UN ECOSOC by acclamation. Which among the following is not true about acclamation?

  • Acclamation is honouring someone
  • Electing a member country through acclamation does not use a ballot.
  • Acclamation was once used in Ancient Rome
  • India is the first country to be elected to the UN ECOSOC through acclamation

Ans: India is not the first country to be elected to the UN ECOSOC through acclamation. The countries that were elected to this board through acclamation were Ukraine, Turkmenistan, Thailand, South Africa, Poland, Monaco, Kenya, Guyana, Gambia, Egypt, Colombia, Cameroon, Bangladesh, Australia, Dominican Republic and Afghanistan.

2.____ was the leading executioner in the world.

  • China
  • Iran
  • Egypt
  • Iraq
  • Saudi Arabia

Ans: China was the leading executioner in the world. However, the exact number of executions being carried out in China is unknown. The Chinese Government holds the data of executions as classified secret and thus the exact number is unknown.

3.Which among the following vaccine is found to neutralises the Double Mutant Strain of COVID-19 (against the Brazil variant and UK variant) by The Indian Council of Medical Research?

  • Pfizer Vaccine
  • Johnson & Johnson's Covid-19 vaccine 
  • COVAXIN 
  • CoviSheild
  • Sputnik V

Ans: The National Institute of Virology recently demonstrated the neutralisation potential of COVAXIN against the Brazil variant and UK variant. 

4.Who launched The Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative at the East India Summit in 2019?

  • Jacinda Ardern
  • Narendra Modi
  • Scott Morrison
  • Xi Jinping

Ans: The Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative was launched by PM Modi at the East India Summit in 2019. The Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative aims to strengthen maritime boundaries. It has three main common goals namely welfare promotion, wealth creation and cooperation win-win strategies. The main principle is to create partnerships between like-minded countries.

5.Who is the current Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas?

  • Naveen Patnaik
  • Nitin Gadkari
  • Dharmendra Pradhan
  • Baijayant Panda

6.Which of the following is not true about civil service day?

  • On this day in 1947, the then Home Minister Shri Sardar Vallabhai Patel addressed the first batch of Administrative Services Officers.
  • Every year India celebrates National Civil Services Day on April 21.
  • Awards for Excellence in Public Administration is presented on National Civil Services Day.
  • It is celebrated to commemorate the birth anniversary of Satyendranath Tagore

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