Daily Current Affairs for 17th September 2020

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Russia inks pact to test, supply Sputnik V vaccine to India


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

Why in News?

The Russia Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which is piloting Russia’s Sputnik V candidate vaccine, currently in Phase 3 trials, has partnered with the Hyderabad-based Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories to test, and subject to regulatory approvals in India, supply 100 million doses of the vaccine.

Key Details:

  • The Sputnik V vaccine, which is based on well-studied human adenoviral vector platform with proven safety, is undergoing clinical trials for the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Deliveries could potentially begin in late 2020 subject to completion of successful trials and registration of the vaccine by regulatory authorities in India.
  • The Phase 1 and 2 results have shown promise, and Phase 3 trials will conducted in India to meet the requirements of the Indian regulators.


The agreement does not include manufacturing the vaccine in India.

Sputnik V vaccine

  • The vaccine, developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute and Russian Defence Ministry has been named Sputnik V after the world’s first satellite Sputnik launched by the Soviet Union during the Cold War in 1957.
  • It is based on a proven vaccine against adenovirus – the common cold.
  • The vaccine is expected to provide immunity from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, for up to two years, according to the Russian health ministry.
  • The vaccine is administered in two doses and consists of two serotypes of human adenovirus, each carrying an S-antigen of the new coronavirus, which enter human cells and produce an immune response.
  • It is a so-called viral vector vaccine, meaning it employs another virus to carry the DNA encoding of the needed immune response into cells.

Environment Minister offers solution for stubble burning


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

Why in news?

Environment Minister of Delhi said that the government will give farmers a product developed by Pusa Agriculture Institute, which can turn stubble into manure to avoid stubble burning without any expense.

Key Details:

  • The product, is in the form of capsules, which can be mixed in water and sprayed on straw to decompose it.
  • Pusa Agricultural Institute has developed this technology that can turn stubble into manure, which can be used on the fields.
  • The Delhi government will coordinate with the Governments of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Punjab based on the results so that the model can be implemented in those States.
  • The capsules mixed in water will be sprayed on stalks that are left behind from the harvester, but the shorter stubble that sticks to the ground even after cutting the crop will have to be managed separately.

No financial burden

  • The cost of spraying it on the fields will be borne by the Delhi government so that there is no financial burden on the farmers.
  • It can prove to be an effective solution to stubble burning.
  • The same amount of money that is spent on the purchase of machines and the subsidy provided for that can be used for decomposing stubble.

Stubble burning and Air Pollution:

  • Air pollution in Delhi has always been a topic of discussion during Deepavali.
  • October-November are the cruelest months for people living in the National Capital Region.
  • A heavy smog slowly drifts in and hangs in through the winter, sending particulate matter (PM) levels soaring to a hazardous degree.
  • It is a traditional practice in Punjab and Haryana to clean off the rice chaff to prepare the fields for winter sowing.
  • It begins around October and peaks in November, coinciding with the withdrawal of southwest monsoon.

What are PM10 and PM2.5 which are choking Delhi

  • PM 2.5 refers to the atmospheric particulate matter which has a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres.
  1. This is about 3 percent of the diameter of the human hair.
  2. The particles in PM 2.5 category are so minute that they can only be detected with the help of an electron microscope.
  • The PM 2.5 particles are smaller than the PM 10 particles.
  • PM 10 are the particles having a diameter of 10 micrometers and they are also called as fine particles. PM 10 particles is also known as respirable particulate matter.
  • Scientifically, the particulate matter is a complex mixture of smoke, soot, metals, nitrates, dust water, sulphates, rubber, etc.
  • There is no single source from where the particulate matter is released.
  • According to the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), most of the particles are created when harmful chemicals react in the atmosphere, however, others are emitted directly from a source, such as construction sites, unpaved roads, fields, smokestacks, fires, etc.

Other possible solutions:

  • Reduction in paddy area/production, allowing farmers to plant/transplant paddy before June and distribute “happy seeders”.
  • Punjab Preservation of Sub-soil Water Act 2009– This mandated farmer to delay sowing of paddy to late June to discourage groundwater extraction.


  • The “happy seeder” is the most talked about solution.
  • The Happy Seederis a tractor-mounted machine that cuts and lifts rice straw, sows’ wheat into the bare soil, and deposits the straw over the sown area as mulch.
  • First, the seeder has to operate within about 4-5 days of the harvest.
  • The effectiveness depends on the moisture (not too moist, not too dry) present in the soil at the time of seeding.
  • This requires a good understanding of soil conditions.
  • The agronomic practices need to change particularly with regard to application of fertilizer and irrigation.

Role of remote sensing in estimation of stubble burn area

  • Remote sensing is defined as the collection of useful information from a distance.
  • It is particularly important in collecting and processing data of the inaccessible areas.
  • Remote sensing with Geographical Information System (GIS) can be used as an effective method in determining the stubble burn area at regional and global levels.

India’s presence at Afghan talks vital’


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

Why in news?

  • The Intra-Afghan Negotiations (IAN) under way in Doha are an “Afghan-led and Afghan owned” process.

Key Details:

  • India’s participation in the Intra-Afghan Negotiations (IAN) held in Doha on September 12
  • India’s decision to take part in the event involving the Taliban an “important step”.
  • India stressed on the need for regional support for the Afghan peace process, that could see the Taliban being brought into the political mainstream in Kabul, and on the importance of ending transnational terrorism from Afghan soil.
  • India has always said there should be an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led process.

Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process

  • Initially, the United States and Taliban agreed in principle to the framework of a peace deal.
  • It was an American-led Afghan process
  • But now it is an Afghan-led and Afghan owned process, with the delegations sitting across the table from each other, without a foreigner sitting in the room, for the first time.
  • It is to respect the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Afghanistan and preserve the progress made in the establishment of a democratic Islamic Republic in Afghanistan
  • These groups, or warring parties, are now talking with each other to negotiate a roadmap for the future of their country.


U.S.–Taliban agreement:

  • The S.–Taliban agreement was signed in Doha in February 2020.
  • The agreement paved the way for withdrawal of the U.S. forces from Afghanistanbased on the Commitment from Taliban that the territory of Afghanistan would not be used against the United States or its allies.
  • Part of the agreement also involves intra-Afghan negotiationsfor a political roadmap for Afghanistan to ensure lasting peace in the region.
  • Peace for Afghanistan, and security for the world from Afghanistan, are the two goals of the agreement.

India’s take on the Afghan peace deal:

  • India earlier was not involved in any of the regional formats that were discussing Afghanistan’s future.
  • India has so far limited itself to humanitarian assistance, economic reconstruction of Afghanistan. It has stayed away from security related assistanceand from mediation in the Afghan talks.
  • But recently, Signalling a carefully calibrated shift in its position on engaging with the Taliban, India participated in the commencement ceremony of intra-Afghan talks between the Afghanistan government and the Taliban in Qatar’s capital Doha.
  • The Indian presence at the Doha ceremony, where a 21-member Taliban delegation arrived, is a significant development, indicating that New Delhi has nuanced its position given the ground reality in Afghanistan and the changing power structure in Kabul.

Lok Sabha nod to amend Banking Act


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

Why in news?

The Lok Sabha passed an amendment to the Banking Regulation Act, 1949.

Key Details:

  • Banking Regulation Act, 1949 regulates the functioning of banks and provides details on various aspects such as licensing, management, and operations of banks.
  • The Bill replaces the Banking Regulation (Amendment) ordinance to the same effect promulgated in June 2020.
  • The amendment will bring cooperative banks under the direct supervision of the RBI and bring them under some of the same governance norms as commercial banks.
  • It will also allow the RBI to amalgamate or reconstruct a stressed cooperative bank without first imposing a moratorium.
  • These amendments are proposed in order to protect the interests of the depositors.
  • The RBI had sought a change in the law that allowed it to prepare a scheme of restructuring or amalgamation for a bank only during a moratorium.
  • Under Section 45 of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949, the RBI would first place a bank under a moratorium, when withdrawals by depositors are restricted or stopped, and then prepare a scheme.
  • The RBI wanted this provision to be changed because it was disruptive, undermined depositor confidence in the bank and could even threaten financial stability.
  • Banks under moratorium usually face a loss of confidence from both borrowers and depositors. There is a gradual depletion of deposits and they find it difficult to raise capital.


  • An ordinance bringing all urban and multi-State cooperative banks under the supervision of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) was approved by the Union Cabinet.
  • Urban cooperatives and multi-State cooperative banks, which are 1,540 in number and have a depositor base of 8.6 crore have been brought under RBI supervision process, which is applicable to scheduled banks.
  • Currently, these banks come under dual regulation of the RBI and the Registrar of Co-operative Societies.


  • The move to bring these urban and multi-State coop. banks under the supervision of the RBI comes after several instances of fraud and serious financial irregularities, including the major scam at the Punjab and Maharashtra Co-operative (PMC) Bank.
  • The RBI was forced to supercede the PMC Bank’s board and impose strict restrictions.
  • The amendments do not apply to Primary Agricultural Credit Societies (PACS) or co-operative societies whose primary object and principal business is long-term finance for agricultural development.

Farmers in Punjab and Haryana fear end of MSP regime


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

Why in news?

Farmers in Punjab and Haryana are up in arms against the Centre’s agriculture-related Bills as they fear their enactment would be a step towards the abolition of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) regime.

What are the three ordinances about? 

  • The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance 2020, which allows farmers to sell produce outside the markets notified under the various state agricultural produce market laws (state APMC Acts).
  • The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance 2020 overrides all state APMC laws with reference to the sale and purchase of farm products, and bring uniformity into contractual farming rules (and state APMC Acts) across India. It also amends the role of APMCs in case of contract farming.
  • The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance 2020, has brought changes into list of essential items whose prices are regulated by the government.

Why are farmers upset about these ordinances?

  • The stated purpose of these ordinances is to create ‘one nation one market’, and provide farmers with the choice to sell their produce for better price and also to attract private investment in the agricultural market.
  • With the abolition of the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC), farmers will neither get the “minimum support price (MSP)” nor the price of the crop according to the market price.
  • The farmers demand the implementation of MS Swaminathan reportby the National Commission on Farmers, which observed that a law should be made for MSP to be at least 50 percent higher than the weighted average cost of production and if the MSP is not paid, it should be a punishable crime
  • These ordinances will not only “destroy” farmers, but will also lead a blow to the mandisystem and impact farm labourers and “arhitiyas” or commission agents as well.
  • There is also no provision in the ordinances for the protection of the rights of farm labourers or tenants.

MS Swaminathan Recommendation:

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