Daily Current Affairs for 12th October 2020

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Paper-strip COVID-19 test to be out soon: Harsh Vardhan


Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in news?

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said that his Ministry will soon roll out the FELUDA paper strip test for SARS-CoV-2 diagnosis.

Key details

  • This has been developed by CSIR-IGIB and has been approved by the Drug Controller General of India for a commercial launch. He added that the test showed 96% sensitivity and 98% specificity.
  • In a huge country like India, it is critical to prioritise vaccine delivery based on various factors such as risk of exposure, co-morbidity among various population groups, the mortality rate among COVID cases.
  • The Minister added that India is looking at the availability of several different types of vaccines, of which some may be suitable for a particular age group while others may not be.
  • Categorically denying rumours of the government prioritising young and working-class for the vaccine for economic reasons.
  • The prioritisation of groups for COVID-19 vaccine shall be based on two key considerations: Occupational hazard and risk of exposure to infection, and the risk of developing severe disease and increased mortality.


  • COVID-19 vaccines currently in trial in India are 2-dose and 3-dose vaccines.
  • Vaccine by Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech require 2 doses while the Cadila Healthcare vaccine requires 3 doses. For other vaccines in pre-clinical stages, the dosing is being tested.


  • Though there are sporadic reports of re-infection surfacing in various States, careful analysis of the ICMR database reveals that many of these cases have actually been misclassified as re-infections.
  • Actual re-infection would mean a fully recovered person getting infected by a freshly introduced virus in his/her body, belonging to the same or different strain.
  • ICMR is commissioning a study to understand the true burden of re-infected cases.

Utilisation of Grants given for Covid-19

  • The central government had so far, in the first phase, released ₹3,000 crore to States and UTs to battle the pandemic.
  • Almost all, except three States/UTs, have utilised the complete grant given to them.
  • Maharashtra has only used 42.5% of the grant, followed by Chandigarh at 47.8% and Delhi at 75.4%.

Types of Grants

Apart from distribution of taxes between centre and states, the constitution provides for mainly two types of grants-in-aid viz. statutory grants and discretionary grants:

Statutory Grants

  • The provisions for statutory grants to needy states {not every state} is given under Article 275.
  • These are charged on Consolidated Fund of India.
  • Such grants also include specific grants for promoting the welfare of the scheduled tribes in a state or for raising the level of administration of the scheduled areas in a state including the State of Assam.
  • The bases of these grants are recommendations of finance commission.

Discretionary Grants

  • Under article 282, both centre and states are able to make any grants for public purpose even if they are not within their legislative competence.
  • Since such grants are discretionary, there are no obligations to make such grants.

Institutes working for Covid-19 Vaccine in India

  • Bharat Biotech, Serum Institute, Zydus Cadila, Panacea Biotec, Indian Immunologicals, Mynvax and Biological E are among the domestic pharma firms working on the coronavirus vaccines in India.
  • Vaccines normally require years of testing and additional time to produce at scale, but scientists are hoping to develop a vaccine within months.
  • Bharat Biotech has received approval to conduct phase I and II clinical trial for its vaccine candidate Covaxin, that has been developed and manufactured in the company’s facility in Hyderabad.
  • Serum Institute of India has entered a manufacturing partnership with AstraZeneca to produce and supply 1 billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine being developed by Oxford University.

‘Blue Flag’ tag for Kasarkod, Padubidri beaches


Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in news

Two beaches in the Karnataka are among the eight in the country that have bagged the coveted eco-label ‘Blue Flag’ from the international agency Foundation for Environment Education, Denmark.

Key details

  • The two beaches are Kasarkod beach near Honnavar in Uttara Kannada and Padubidri beach near Udupi.
  • Earlier, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change had embarked upon a programme for ‘Blue Flag’ certification for select 13 beaches in the country.

Blue Flag Beach

  • ‘Blue Flag’ beach is an eco-tourism model to provide tourists clean and hygienic bathing water, facilities/amenities, safe and healthy environment and sustainable development of the area.
  • The certification is awarded by the Denmark-based agency based on 33 stringent criteria in four major heads that is
  1. environmental education and information
  2. bathing water quality
  • environment management and
  1. conservation and safety and services in the beaches.

Facilities and infrastructure

Kasarkod and Padubidri beaches have grey water treatment plants, solid waste management plants, disabled-friendly equipment to enable them to enter seawater, seating arrangements, clean drinking water, washroom, changing room, bathing facility, disabled-friendly and general toilets, parking facilities, solar power plant, solar lighting, and the like.

Blue Flag Certification

  • Blue Flag beaches are considered the cleanest beaches of the world.
  • The Blue Flag is one of the world’s most recognised voluntary eco-labels awarded to beaches, marinas, and sustainable boating tourism operators.
  • In order to qualify for the Blue Flag, a series of stringent environmental, educational, safety, and accessibility criteria must be met and maintained.
  • The Blue Flag Programme for beaches and marinas is run by the international, non-governmental, non-profit organisation FEE (the Foundation for Environmental Education).


  • To plan sustainable tourism and healthy coastal management, MoEF&CC has conceived an integrated coastal management scheme viz. BEAMS (also referred to as Beach Management Services)
  • It is launched to reduce existing pollutants on beaches and to aspire & achieve such high International Standards in India.
  • The objectives of BEAMS program is to:

Environmental Management including cleanliness, solid waste management in beaches.

Environment Education.

Safety & Security of Beachgoers.

Bathing Water Quality Standards.

Promote sustainable development of beach facilities,

Protect & conserve coastal ecosystems & natural resources,

At 15, RTI Act crippled by huge backlog


Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in news?
Fifteen years after the Right to Information (RTI) Act came into force, more than 2.2 lakh cases are pending at the Central and State Information Commissions, which are the final courts of appeal under the transparency law.

Key details

  • The increasing backlog is exacerbated by the fact that most commissions are functioning at a reduced capacity, including the Central Information Commission (CIC), which has been headless since August.
  • A report card brought out by the Satark Nagrik Sangathan and the Centre for Equity Studies to mark the anniversary found that Maharashtra had the highest number of pending appeals, with over 59,000 cases, followed by Uttar Pradesh (47,923) and the CIC (35,653).
  • Analysing data from 16 commissions in 2019-20, the report found that penalties were imposed in only 2.2% of cases that were disposed of, despite previous analysis showing a rate of about 59% violations which should have triggered the process of penalty imposition.

Need to scrutinise functioning

  • Non-imposition of penalties in deserving cases by commissions sends a signal to public authorities that violating the law will not invite any serious consequences.
  • The need to scrutinise the functioning of information commissions now is perhaps greater than ever before, given the unprecedented crisis gripping the nation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • If the poor and marginalised affected by the public health emergency are to have any hope of obtaining the benefits of government schemes, they must have access to relevant information.
  • At a time when incentives for secrecy are great, and the scope for discretionary actions wide, the role of information commissions is crucial to ensure that people can obtain information on healthcare facilities, social security programs and delivery of essential goods and services meant for those in distress.

Right to information and obligations of public authorities

The Right to Information Act of 2005

The act is one of the most important acts which empowers ordinary citizens to question the government and its working. This has been widely used by citizens and media to uncover corruption, progress in government work, expenses related information, etc.

Subject to the provisions of this Act, all citizens shall have the right to information.

 Every public authority shall—

  1. a) maintain all its records duly catalogued and indexed in a manner and the form which facilitates the right to information under this Act and ensure that all records that are appropriate to be computerised are, within a reasonable time and subject to availability of resources, computerised and connected through a network all over the country on different systems so that access to such records is facilitated;

(b) publish all relevant facts while formulating important policies or announcing the decisions which affect public;

(c) provide reasons for its administrative or quasi-judicial.

Challenges to RTI ACT

  • Huge level of pendency of cases both at national and state levels.
  • Non imposition of penalties – data supplied by 20 commissions shows that penalty was imposed in just 2.4% of the cases disposed of.
  • More than 40 RTI activists had been killed in the process of exposing wrongdoings.
  • Laxity by public authorities in publishing information.
  • The RTI act, did not give adequate authority to the Information Commssion to enfotce their decisions.

School closure may cost India dear


Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in news?

According to World Bank The extended closure of schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic could dent India’s future earnings by anywhere between $420 billion and $600 billion, as depleted learning levels of students will translate into poorer productivity going forward.

Key details

Warning that as many as 5.5 million students could drop out of schools across South Asia, the dropouts, combined with substantial learning losses for those who remain enrolled in schools, would cost South Asia as much as $622 billion in future earnings and gross domestic product.

Far-reaching impact

  • South Asian governments spend only $400 billion a year on primary and secondary education, so the total loss in economic output would be substantially higher.
  • Education came to a standstill and efforts to teach children during school closures proved challenging. The estimated costs of the school closures in terms of learning and earning losses are substantial. They have kept 391 million students out of school in primary and secondary education, further complicating efforts to resolve the learning crisis.
  • It added that engaging children through remote learning programmes had been difficult, despite most governments’ best efforts to mitigate the impact of school closures.

China backs Iran nuclear deal, calls for new West Asia forum


Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in news?

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has called for a new forum to defuse tensions in the West Asia after a meeting with his Iranian counterpart where he reiterated Beijing’s support for Tehran.

Key details

  • Iran has been locked in an acrimonious relationship with Saudi Arabia, the other major West Asian power, over the war in Yemen, Iranian influence in Iraq and Saudi support for Washington’s sanctions on Tehran.
  • China proposes to build a regional multilateral dialogue platform with equal participation of all stakeholders.
  • The forum would enhance mutual understanding through dialogue and explore political and diplomatic solutions to security issues in the West Asia.


  • Recently, Iran has completely withdrawn from JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) nuclear deal.
  • The announcement came after the US troops killed General Qassem Soleimani.

2015 Iran nuclear deal

  • The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action known commonly as the Iran nuclear deal or Iran deal, is an agreement on the Iranian nuclear program reached in Vienna on 14 July 2015, between Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council—China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States—plus Germany) together with the European Union.
  • Formal negotiations toward JCPOA began with the adoption of the Joint Plan of Action, an interim agreement signed between Iran and the P5+1 countries in November 2013.
  • Iran and the P5+1 countries engaged in negotiations for the next 20 months and in April 2015 agreed on a framework for the final agreement.
  • In July 2015 Iran and the P5+1 confirmed agreement on the plan along with the “Roadmap Agreement” between Iran and the IAEA.
  • Under the accord, Iran agreed to limit its sensitive nuclear activities and allow in international inspectors in return for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.

Implications for India

  • On Oil and Gas: The impact on world oil prices will be the immediately visible impact.

Iran is presently India’s third biggest supplier (after Iraq and Saudi Arabia), and any increase in prices will hit both inflation levels as well as the Indian rupee.

  • INSTC: It will also affect these plans, especially if any of the countries along the route or banking and insurance companies dealing with the INSTC plan also decide to adhere to U.S. restrictions on trade with Iran.
  • Shanghai Cooperation Organisation: China may consider inducting Iran into the SCO.

If the proposal is accepted by the SCO, which is led by China and Russia, India will become a member of a bloc that will be seen as anti-American, and will run counter to some of the government’s other initiatives like the Indo-Pacific quadrilateral with the U.S., Australia and Japan.

50 lakhs imposed on NCRTC


Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in news?

Environment Minister Gopal Rai said that he has instructed the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) to impose a fine of ₹50 lakh on the National Capital Region Transport Corporation’s (NCRTC) construction site in the city for violating air pollution control measures.

Key details

  • Massive dust pollution is happening here. The guidelines issued by the Delhi government regarding pollution control are not being followed by the agency.
  • NCRTC is already aware that anti-dust operations are being carried out all over Delhi but they are not following the rules completely.
  • There are 39 large sites in Delhi, covering an area of more than 20,000 square meters where either construction work or demolition work is going on.
  • On the instructions of Delhi government, anti-smog guns have been installed at 33 places to prevent dust pollution. But at six sites, the equipment have not been installed.

Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC)

  • Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) is an autonomous regulatory body came into existence on 01.06.1991
  • DPCC acts as a regulatory body in respect of NCT of Delhi for implementation of various Environmental / Pollution Control Laws enacted by the Parliament and notified by MOEF, Govt. of India.
  • DPCC is headed by Chairman, DPCC [Secretary (Environment & Forest), Govt. of NCT of Delhi]


  • Issuance of the Consent Certificate to the Industries falling in conforming areas under Green and Orange Categories.
  • Issuance of Authorization to the Hospitals, Clinics, Animal Clinics, Blood Banks etc.
  • Advise the Delhi Government on any matter concerning prevention and control of water and air pollution and improvement of the quality of air
  • Organize through a comprehensive mass awareness programme on the prevention, control or abatement of water and air pollution
  • Lay down standards for treatment of sewage and trade effluents and for emissions from automobiles, industrial plants, and any other polluting source.
  • Develop reliable and economically viable methods of treatment of sewage, trade effluent and air pollution control equipment.

National Capital Region Transport Corporation (NCRTC)

  • National Capital Region Transport Corporation (NCRTC) – a joint venture company of Govt of India and States of Delhi,Haryana, Rajasthan and U.P, under the administrative control of Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.
  • It is mandated for implementing the Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS) project across the NCR of India
  • It ensures a balanced and sustainable urban development through better connectivity and access.

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