GS PAPER II NEWS

Stringency Index of India

Why in News

India currently has the second highest number of cumulative infections in the world after the US.

Key Points

  • India crosses over three lakh new cases every day.
  • While there is no national lockdown, most States have imposed partial or complete lockdowns since April in an effort to combat the pandemic.
  • These restrictions have impacted the Stringency Index of India, taking it to 73.61 as on April 30.
  • With States such as Tamil Nadu and Kerala announcing lockdowns in May, the index is likely to rise further.

Stringency Index

  • The Stringency Index is part of the Oxford Covid-19 Government Response Tracker (OxCGRT).
  • It is calculated on the basis of nine parameters including:
  • School and workplace closures,
  • Cancellation of public events,
  • Restrictions on gathering size,
  • Closing public transport,
  • Restrictions on internal movement and international travel,
  • Stay at home requirements and
  • Public information campaigns.
  • A higher score (ranging between 0 and 100) indicates a higher level of strictness in the response by the country.

India in Stringency Index

  • The value of India’s Stringency Index in January 2020 was only 10.19.
  • It increased gradually from 26.85-50 in the first two weeks of March when infections began to slowly spread in different pockets of the country.
  • It surged to 100 towards the of end-March 2020, when the full lockdown was imposed in country.
  • It stayed at 100 till April 19, then slipped to 96.3 and fell further to 81.94 in the first week of May.
  • It rose again to 87.5 in the beginning of June and stayed constant till end-July.
  • When the economy started opening up in August 2020, the Stringency Index also started coming down, stood at 68.98 at the end of 2020.
  • Again in 2021, the value of the Index fell to 61.57 towards the end of January and tumbled further to 57.87 in the second week of March.
  • After that, it rose to 69.91 on April 5, and further to 73.61 on April 19.

Global Stringency Index

  • The US saw the second wave of infections surge from end-December till mid-January had its Stringency Index value at 71.76 during the period, as per data from ‘Our World in Data’.
  • Similarly, Brazil’s Stringency Index value during its second wave of Covid-19 infections ranged from 64.35 in mid-December to 72.69 in mid-January 2021.

India-Swiss Financial Dialogue

Why in News

The 4th India-Swiss Financial Dialogue was held virtually on 11th May through video conferencing.

Key Points


  • The Indian delegation included representatives from:
  • Department of Economic Affairs,
  • Department of Revenue,
  • Department of Financial Services and
  • Ministry of External Affairs.
  • Both nations shared their experiences for collaboration on various aspects including
  • Investments,
  • International Financial Services Centre Authority (IFSCA),
  • National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF),
  • FinTech,
  • Sustainable finance and cross border financial services.
  • Further, matters relating to G20, IMF and tax challenges arising from the digitalization of the economy was discussed along with infrastructure financing.
  • Both the countries shared views and perspective on their respective countries and global economic scenario.
  • Both sides emphasized importance of coordinated bilateral action on clean and resilient post-COVID world.
  • The Dialogue concluded on a positive note for a sustained future collaboration between both countries in the areas of mutual interest.

Relation between India and Switzerland

  • Switzerland has a close and dynamic relationship with India which reflected in numerous treaties and agreements and in frequent high-level diplomatic visits.
  • The broad-based cooperation between the two countries covers areas including trade, science, education and culture.
  • In 2018 both celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Treaty of Friendship signed between the two countries in 1948.
  • History of bilateral relations
  • Switzerland recognised and established diplomatic relations with India after the country gained independence in 1947.
  • During the dispute over Bangladesh from 1971 to 1976, Switzerland represented India’s interests in Pakistan and those of Pakistan in India.
  • India has an embassy in Bern and two consulates-general, one in Geneva and the other in Zurich.
  • Economic Relationship:
  • India is fourth-largest trading partner of Switzerland in Asia and the largest in South Asia.
  • In 2018 Swiss exports to India amounted to CHF 17.4 billion and comprised mainly precious metals, machinery, pharmaceuticals and chemicals.
  • Imports, mainly of chemicals, textiles, precious metals and agricultural products, amounted to CHF 1.83 billion in 2018.
  • At the end of 2016 Swiss direct investment in India total CHF 4.7 billion.
  • Some 250 Swiss companies have a presence in India in the form of joint ventures, subsidiaries or branches.
  • Cultural exchange:
  • Switzerland and India have a long tradition of cultural relations.
  • The opening of the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia liaison office in New Delhi in 2007 gave additional impetus to cultural relations between Switzerland and India.
  • Cooperation in education, research and innovation
  • Both nations signed a science and technology agreement in 2003 and a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in the social sciences in 2012.
  • The activities covered in these agreements fall within the scope of the Indo-Swiss Joint Research Programme.
  • Swissnex India, located in Bangalore, connects Switzerland and India in the fields of science, education, arts and innovation.
  • The Swiss VET Initiative India (SVETII) was launched in 2008 to mark the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Friendship between Switzerland and India.

Conclusion

  • The Dialogue concluded on a positive note for a sustained future collaboration between both countries in the areas of mutual interest.

1918 Influenza Epidemic

Why in News

Reports coming from Bihar about bodies floating in the river Ganga and washing up on its banks which is believed the bodies belong to Covid patients.

Key Points

  • This is very similar scene took place during the influenza epidemic, commonly known as the Spanish Flu.
  • More than a century ago when corpses were seen floating in Narmada river in an area which is now part of Madhya Pradesh.

Influenza Epidemic of 1918


  • The 1918 influenza pandemic was the most severe pandemic in recent history.
  • It was caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of avian origin.
  • In the United States, it was first identified in military personnel in spring 1918.
  • It is estimated that about 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected with this virus.
  • The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide with about 675,000 occurring in the United States.
  • Without any vaccine and anti-biotics, control efforts worldwide were limited to non-pharmaceutical interventions such as isolation, quarantine, good personal hygiene, use of disinfectants, and limitations of public gatherings, which were applied unevenly.
  • Due to the epidemic was far beyond ordinary arrangements and since wood or cow dung were not available, hence bodies were simply thrown into the Narmada.
  • According to the report of the National Archives titled ‘The Influenza Epidemic of 1918 in India’, the accumulations of corpses were removed by the “simple but insanitary process” of passing them down the Narmada stream.

GS PAPER III

National Technology Day

Why in news

National Technology Day 2021 on May 11 celebrates the achievements and contributions of Indians to science and technology.

National Technology Day

  • National Technology Day is not just for scientists and engineers but also for those who associating with ideating, innovating, and facilitating the dissemination of knowledge, information and taking the products or benefits to people at the grassroots level.
  • It is a great opportunity to appreciate the work and achievements of Indian scientists, engineers and innovators who help the country’s growth and prosperity.
  • On National Technology Day, it is important to remember amid global climate crisis that ”clean energy is good business; it drives more jobs, cleaner air and better health”.
  • Goal 9 of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals stated that: ”Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation”.
  • Awards are given to several innovators and entrepreneurs on this day every year.

History behind National Technology Day


  • The National Technology Day was observed for the first time on May 11, 1999.
  • On May 11, 1998, India conducted three successful nuclear tests at the Indian Army’s Pokhran Test Range in Rajasthan under Operation Shakti.
  • The tests were led by late President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam.
  • The then-Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee declared May 11 as a day of significant achievement for the country.
  • The Technology Development Board ever since has been honoring scientists and engineers and their technological innovations that have added to the growth of India on this day.

Significance of the Day

  • The mission was carried out by the Indian Army in collaboration with scientists from the:
  • Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO),
  • Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC),
  • Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research (AMDER).
  • These tests made India capable of building thermonuclear weapons and fission bombs.
  • Also on National Technology Day, India’s first-ever indigenous aircraft, Hansa-1, took flight and the DRDO tested the surface-to-air Trishul missile.
  • It is a short-range missile with a quick reaction time.

National Technology Day 2021

  • The National Technology Day 2021 theme is “Science and Technology for a Sustainable Future”.
  • In 2020, the theme was ‘Rebooting the Economy through Science, Technology and Research Translations’ titled ‘RESTART’.
  • For the year 2021, Technology Development Board (TDB) invited application for National Awards under three categories and total 15 winners were selected.
  • Those three categories are:
  • National Award for Successful Commercialization of Indigenous Technology,
  • National Award Under MSME Category, and
  • National Award under Technology Start-up Category.

Technology Development Board (TDB)

  • TDB is a statutory body of Government of India functioning under Department of Science of Technology.
  • It provides financial assistance to Indian industrial concerns and other agencies, for commercialization of indigenized technologies or adaptation of imported technologies for wider domestic applications.
  • It was instituted in 1996, TDB has funded more than 300 companies for commercialization of technologies.

Microfinance institutions (MFIs)

Why in News

Reeling under the impact of the second wave of the pandemic, the microfinance sector urged the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for support.

Key Points


  • The Microfinance Sectors urging the RBI about an emergency credit line and creating awareness among State governments on ill effects of loan waivers.
  • In a letter to the RBI, SaDhan, representing the sector, has sought emergency credit of up to 25% of their outstanding with the lending banks to enable micro­finance institutions (MFIs) to mobilize ₹15,000 crore.
  • It also sought a special liquidity facility of at least ₹15,000 crore through NABARD and SIDBI.
  • At least 40% of funds under this may be earmarked for MFIs with portfolio below ₹500 crore.
  • It also recommended the introduction of a partial Credit Guarantee Scheme 3.0.
  • It may help to boost confidence of banks in the ‘present uncertain times’ to lend to the microfinance sector, especially small and mid­size MFIs with relatively lower credit ratings.
  • The RBI should emphasize to the Union and State governments the role of the sector in financial inclusion and highlight the need to categories it under ‘essential services’ without imposing curbs on operations that affect clients as well as MFIs.
  • RBI may reiterate to State governments the ill­ effects of loan waiver announcements and its implications on credit discipline and flow of funds to the marginalized sections.
  • Other recommendations include assessment of MFI cash flow by banks and developmental finance institutions and providing them moratorium or restructuring support for 6­12 months.

Microfinance institutions (MFIs)

  • Microfinance institutions (MFIs) are financial companies that provide small loans to people who do not have any access to banking facilities.
  • The definition of “small loans” varies between countries. In India, all loans that are below Rs. 1 lakh can be considered as microloans.

National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD)

  • NABARD is an apex regulatory body for regulation and licensing of regional rural banks and apex cooperative banks in India.
  • It comes under the jurisdiction of Ministry of Finance, formed on 12th July 1982.
  • It was established on the recommendations of B. Sivaramman Committee under National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development Act 1981.
  • It was established by replacing the:
  • Agricultural Credit Department (ACD) and
  • Rural Planning and Credit Cell (RPCC) of Reserve Bank of India, and
  • Agricultural Refinance and Development Corporation (ARDC).
  • The bank has been entrusted with “matters concerning policy, planning, and operations in the field of credit for agriculture and other economic activities in rural areas in India”.
  • NABARD is active in developing & implementing Financial Inclusion.

Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI)

  • SIDBI is the apex regulatory body in India for overall regulation and licensing of microfinance institutions in India.
  • It was established on 2nd April 1990 by an Act of Parliament.
  • It comes under the jurisdiction of Ministry of Finance headquartered at Lucknow.
  • Its Objective is to provide refinance facilities and short-term lending to industries, and serves as the principal financial institution in the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector.
  • It also coordinates the functions of institutions engaged in similar activities.