On April 27, 2021, India, Australia and Japan formally launched the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative. The initiative was launched to counter the dominance of China in the Global Supply Chain. It aims to prevent disruptions in the supply chain as seen during COVID-19 pandemic. The initiative will mainly focus on diversification of investment and digital technology adoption.
Objectives of Supply Chain Resilience Initiative
To increase Foreign Direct Investment and eventually turn Indo-Pacific region into an “Economic Powerhouse”.
To build complementary relations between the partner countries
To build on the existential Supply Chain Network.
About Supply Chain Resilience Initiative
It was proposed by Japan.
It mainly aims to reduce the dependence on China.
According to the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the share of Chinese imports into India stood at 14.5%. The Chinese imports dominate electronics, pharmaceuticals, automotive parts, chemicals, shipping and textiles. In Electronics alone China accounts to 45% of imports of India. During COVID-19, all these sectors were highly affected as India was heavily dependent on China for its raw materials especially in the field of Electronics and Pharmaceuticals.
The COVID-19 has revealed supply chain vulnerabilities and the monopolism enjoyed by China in the region.
China recently formed an initiative with its Asian neighbours Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to help them set up COVID-19 emergency supply reserves.
Also, the Sichuan Airlines of China recently suspended cargo flights to India that were taking crucial supplies of Oxygen concentrators to India.
Such belligerence (aggressive war like behaviour) of China even during COVID-19 pandemic has forced the countries to form the initiative.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare recently announced that the Agriculture Infrastructure Fund recently crossed Rs 8,000 crore mark. The Ministry has received 8,665 applications so far. The worth of these applications has amounted to Rs 8, 216 crores. Out of this, Rs 4, 000 crores have been sanctioned by the Ministry so far.
About the Applications and Sanctions
The states that received maximum help through the fund are Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, and Rajasthan.
The largest share of the sanctioned application was contributed by the following sectors:
Primary Agricultural Societies: 58%
Individual Farmers: 13%
Agriculture Infrastructure Fund
In 2020, the Government of India established the Agriculture Infrastructure Fund to inject credit into agriculture and its allied activities.
It was launched as a part of Atma Nirbhar Bharat. The main objective of the fund is to make the farmers self-reliant.
Around One Lakh Crore of rupees was allocated for the fund.
It is to be implemented between 2020 and 2029.
The fund will be used to provide loans to the Marketing Cooperative Societies, Primary Agricultural Societies, Farmer Producers Organisation, Joint Liability Groups, Self Help Groups.
The fund is being provided for setting up of warehouses, cold stores, silos, grading, packaging units, ripening chambers, etc.
The loans provided under the finds will receive an interest subvention of 3% per annum up to two crores of rupees. This interest subvention is available for a period of seven years.
The Agricultural Infrastructure Funds are managed by the Management Information System Platform.
The IA 2030 is Immunisation Agenda 2030. It was launched by World Health Organisation, GAVI and the UNICEF. It has been titled as the “A Global Strategy to leave No One Behind”. It aims to maximise lifesaving impact of vaccines. The Immunisation Agenda 2030 was launched during the World Immunisation Week.
Key Features of IA 2030
It aims to promote “Vaccination throughout life”, that is, from infancy to adolescent and till old age.
According to WHO, if completely implemented, the IA 2030 will avert fifty million deaths. Of this 75% of them will be in low-income and in lower-middle-income countries.
What are the targets of IA 2030?
It aims to achieve 90% coverage of essential vaccines that are administered to infants, children and adolescents.
Also, the IA 2030 agenda will aim to halve the number of children missing vaccines by 2030.
Also, it will complete 500 national introductions of new vaccines such as COVID-19 vaccines, Human Papiloma Virus vaccine called the HPV and also rotavirus.
What are the priorities of IA 2030?
The seven priorities of IA 2030 are as follows:
Commitment and Demand
Coverage and Equity
Outbreaks and Emergencies
Life Course and Integration
Supply and Sustainability
Research and Innovation
In August 2020, the 73rd World Health Assembly passed the resolution of “IA 2030 Agenda”.
GAVI is Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation. In January 2021, the Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Dr Harsh Vardhan was nominated as a member on GAVI board.
In May 2020, the Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Dr Harsh Vardhan was elected as the Chairperson of the WHO ExecutiveBoard.
In March 2021, the Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Dr Harsh Vardhan was appointed as the chairman of the Stop TB Partnership Board.
The United Kingdom has become the first country to announce regulation for the use of self-driving vehicles at low speeds.
The UK wants to be at the forefront in rolling out autonomous driving technology. The Government of UK forecasts that around 40% of UK cars will have self-driving capabilities by 2035. This will create 38,000 jobs in the country.
What is the plan?
The Government of UK has been working on the highway code for the use of self-driving vehicles. The Ministry of Transport is to begin with Automated Lane Keeping Systems (ALKS).
About the Regulations
The speed limit of the ALKS is to be set at 37 miles per hour.
The ALKS shall drive itself in a single lane.
According to the UK Government, the technology will help reduce accidents caused due to human errors. 85% of accidents in UK are caused due to human errors.
How do Self Driving Vehicles work?
A self-driving vehicle is fully autonomous. No driver is required for the safe operation of the vehicle. Self-driving technologies have been developed by Uber, Google, Nissan, Tesla.
Most of the self-driving systems maintain an internal map. They use lasers, sensors and radars to map their surroundings. Based on the map created, instructions are delivered to the actuators of the vehicle.
Levels of Driving
Level 0: All the major systems are controlled by humans
Level 1: It includes automatic braking or cruise control
Level 2: The cars offer at least two simultaneous automated functions such as steering and acceleration
Level 3: The car is capable of managing all critical safety functions. However, the driver is expected to take over when alerted.
Level 4: Almost autonomous. However, not completely
Level 5: Completely capable of self-driving in every situation
On April 29, 2021, China launched the core module of its Space Station. This is an important milestone in the country’s ambitious plan of establishing a permanent human presence in space.
Tiangong means “Heavenly Space”.
It is to begin its operations in 2022.
Still eleven more modules are to be launched and assembled to complete the space station.
According to the Chinese Government, the completed Space Station will look like the “Mir Station”. Mir was a Russian Space Station that orbited between 1980s and 2001.
The Chinese Space Station, Tiangong will orbit the earth in the low earth orbit at a height of 400 to 450 kilometres.
The lifespan of the space station is fifteen years.
It weighs more than 90 tonnes.
The size of Tiangong Space Station will be a quarter the size of the International Space Station.
Previous Chinese Mission
In 2011, Chinese launched the Tiangong – 1. It was the first prototype module that laid groundwork for the permanently crewed station.
In 2016, the second lab Tiangong – 2 was launched.
International Space Station
International Space Station is a Collaboration between US, Canada, Russia, Japan and Europe. It is to retire in 2024.
After the termination of the collaboration, Russia is to pull out of the International Space Station.
Russia has planned to launch its own space station in 2025.
After International Space Station retires, Tiangong will be the only space station orbiting the earth.
The Chinese are also planning to build a separate lunar space station with Russia. This space station might either be placed in the orbit of the moon or on its surface.
The Union Finance Minister Smt Nirmala Sitaraman inaugurated the first 3D printed house at IIT Madras.
About the House
The House was constructed using indigenous 3D printing technology.
It was built in just five days.
It was built by TVASTA Manufacturing solutions based on a concept by former IIT-M students.
What is 3D printing?
3D printing is a process of making three dimensional objects through digital instructions. It is also called Additive manufacturing. It is the opposite of Subtractive Manufacturing. Subtractive Manufacturing is cutting away from a large material.
The Global market of 3D printing is expected to reach 34.8 billion USD by 2024.
3D Printing in India
In 2020, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology released the National Strategy for Additive Manufacturing.
India holds only 1.4% of the global market share in Additive Manufacturing. Within ASEAN grouping, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia account to about 80% of the Additive Manufacturing market.
National Strategy for Additive Manufacturing
The key goal is to position India as a global hub for additive manufacturing. It will address the following challenges in 3D printing in India:
Surface finish of contoured surfaces
Lack of Additive Manufacturing Standards
3D Printing in Construction
In the construction sector, it takes a lot of hard work to create a detailed, handmade and scaled product. With 3D printing the task becomes easier especially when complex geometries are involved. It can render detailed models in terms of colour and range of materials.
Types of Additive Manufacturing
According to the National Strategy of Additive Manufacturing, there are seven types of Additive Manufacturing processes. They are as follows:
Directed Energy Deposition
Powder Bed Fusion
The archaeologists recently found that the jars in the “Plain of Jars” were used as burial sites. They have also found that though the jars could be 3,000 years old, the human remains suggest that people were buried along side these jars 700 years ago, which is relatively recent.
About the recent Discoveries
According the scientists, the vessels in the Plain of Jars were placed in late Second millennium BCE. On the other hand, the human remains come from 13th century. It is possible that the jars were always used as burial sites.
Some also say that these jars were used for brewing celebratory rice wine and whiskey.
These conclusions were made only after four jar sites were studied. There are plenty of unexplored jar sites in Laos.
The jars were made of different rock types such as Limestone, Granite, Conglomerate, Breccia, Sandstone. However, the majority of the jars were made of sandstone.
Where is the Plain of Jars located?
The Plain of Jars is located in Laos. It is a megalithic archaeological landscape. It consists of thousands of stone jars. These jars are found in the lower foothills of Xiangkhoang Plateau.
There are more than 90 Jar sites in the plateau. Each site has more than 400 stone jars. Some of the jars have stone lids as well.
About the Jars
The Jars are cylindrical in shape. The bottom of the jar is wider than the top.
In 1930, a French researcher Madeleine Colani concluded that the jars were associated with burial practices. This interpretation was supported by Japanese and Laos archaeologists with the discovery of human remains.
The Plain of Jars became the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2019.
Michael Collins was an American Astronaut. He was the pilot of the Apollo 11 command module. On July 20, 1969, Michael Collins stayed behind when Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong became the first humans to walk on the moon.
About Michael Collins
Michael is often addressed as the forgotten third astronaut in the Apollo mission. He stayed alone in the command module for twenty-one hours till his colleagues returned.
The worst part of his twenty-one hour of lonely stay is that he lost contact with Houston when his spacecraft circled the dark side of the moon. Only one side of the moon is visible to the earth constantly. This is because, the rotation and revolution duration of the moon is equal.
The Autobiography written by Michael was “Carrying the Fire”.
He was born in Rome on October 31, 1930. He was the son of a US Army Major.
He started his career as an Air Force Test pilot.
His first Voyage mission was Gemini X. Gemini X was a part of the missions that prepared Apollo Programme. His next and final spaceflight was Apollo 11.
Apollo 11 was the spaceflight that landed first humans on the moon. Armstrong was the first person to land on the moon. He was joined by Aldrin after nineteen minutes. They spent two and a quarter hours on the moon outside the spacecraft. They brought back 21.5 kilograms of lunar material back to the earth. They named the site they spent on the lunar surface as Tranquillity Base.
The Apollo 11 had three parts namely Command module, service module and lunar module.
The Command Module is the place where Michael spent while the others landed on the moon. It was the only part that returned to the earth.
Service Module supported the Command Module with electrical power, propulsion, oxygen and water.
The Lunar Module had two stages. One was the descent stage to place the astronauts on the moon and an ascent stage to place the astronauts into the orbit.
NITI Aayog recently said that the Government of India should provide incentives on purchase of electric vehicles over and above existing subsidies being provided under FAME II scheme. Also, it has recommended to provide interest subvention on loan amount taken for Electric Vehicle purchases.
What are the recommendations made by NITI Aayog?
Apart from interest subvention and additional subsidies, NITI Aayog has also recommended to create non-financial incentives. This includes exclusive parking for Electric Vehicles in commercial complexes, priority lanes for EVs.
The NITI Aayog has also recommended that the Green Zones should be demarcated within cities that permit only electric Vehicles.
The think tank says that heavy taxes should be charged on conventional fuel vehicles.
Green corridors should be created that allow only E-Buses.
A National Level Policy should be formulated to incentivise distribution utilities that are investing on EV charging infrastructure.
The Financial Institutions in the country should be encouraged to extend their lending facility to the Electric Mobility sector.
The charging infra developer should allocate a portion of the land for open public amenities such as food zones, cafeteria, etc. Such provisions have been included in the Madhya Pradesh EV Policy.
The Electricity Regulator should be mandated to provide a mechanism to approve rate-basing of utility investments in building EV Charging infrastructure.
Why were the recommendations made?
The Government had notified National Electric Mobility Mission Plan, 2020 that aims to increase domestic manufacturing capacities of EV. Also, the FAME II scheme was launched to stimulate the EV market. In spite of all these measures, the share of EVs in the total sale of vehicle sales in the country is just 1%. Therefore, NITI Aayog has come up with these recommendations.
The Central Institute of Brackish Aquaculture located in Chennai has developed an indigenous vaccine for Viral Nervous Necrosis. The name of the vaccine is Nodavac-R
Viral Nervous Necrosis
The disease is caused by the Betanodavirus. It mostly affects teleost fish. More than forty species are affected by this virus and most of them are marine species.
This virus transmits through passive diffusion and contact.
The disease mostly occurs in juveniles or larvae. However, it also affects the adults.
Viral Nervous Necrosis in India
In India the disease has been a serious concern affecting freshwater, marine and brackish water fishes largely. They result in 100% mortality in fishes that are in juvenile and larval stages.
Red Spotted Grouper Nervous Necrosis Virus is the only genotype found in India. The infected adults are the main carriers. They transmit the virus to their offspring through the eggs.
The best way to control the disease in the country is to vaccinate adult fish and also the fingerlings. The Nodavac-R is safe for all species that are susceptible to Viral Nervous Necrosis. They are to be used in fish hatcheries to bring down the incidence of the disease. Fish Hatchery is the place for artificial breeding of fishes.
What are Teleost fish?
They range from giant oars fish that measure 7.6 metres in length to minute Angler fish that measure 6.2 milli metres. They are economically important. The Teleost fish are captured for food all over the world.
India ranks second in aquaculture and more than 14.5 million Indians are dependent on fish production.
The Health Regulator of Brazil recently announced that the Sputnik V vaccines of Russia carried live cold virus. It has thus raised questions about the integrity of the manufacturing process of the virus.
The Adeno Virus Vector
Vector means the carrier of the virus. In this case the COVID-19 virus. These vectors carry only a portion of the virus which is generally referred to as antigen.
The Adeno Virus is normally used as a vector as they induce innate (natural) and adaptive immune responses.
What is the issue with Adeno virus based COVID vaccines?
Adeno virus normally causes mild respiratory illness in humans. However, in vaccines, they are modified in such a way that they cannot replicate. Their structure is edited to carry the DNA instructions for human cells to develop immune system against COVID-19. That is, it carries a part of dead COVID-19 material and also it trains the immune system to fight against this virus.
Adeno Virus in Sputnik V
Usually, the adeno virus-based vaccines are administered in single shot. This is because, the adeno virus naturally occurs in humans. People with a weak immune system are more likely to get an adeno virus infection.
However, Sputnik V which is also an adeno virus-based vaccine is administered in two shots. In the first shot, adeno virus type 26 Ad 26 is administered and in the second shot adeno virus Ad5 is administered.
The Expenditure Secretary T V Somanathan was recently designated as the Finance Secretary by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet.
About T V Somanathan
Currently he is the senior most officer among all the secretaries in the Ministry of Finance. He is a 1987 batch Indian Administrative Service Officer of Tamil Nadu cadre.
Tuhin Kanta Pandey is the current Secretary of Department of Investment Public Asset Management (DIPAM). Ajay Seth is the current secretary of Department of Economic Affairs.
The Department of Disinvestment was renamed as DIPAM. DIPAM aims in efficient management of investments of the Central Government and also its disinvestments.
Currently the Government of India is pursuing disinvestment to enhance its efficiency and not to vacate the public sector. The current disinvestment policy aims at the following:
To minimize the interference
To allow public sector units to function along with the commercial principles
To permit managerial autonomy in decision making.
Difference between Privatisation and Disinvestment in India
If the sales of equity of a Public Sector Unit is greater than 50% it is called privatisation. On the other hand, disinvestment is when the Government sells only a part of its stake in the PSU and retains majority of the shares. Disinvestment is basically done to tinker the PSU. Tinkering is repairing or improving something.
Why is Disinvestment important?
Disinvestment reduces the financial burden of inefficient PSUs. This is done to improve public finances.
NITI Aayog makes recommendations about loss making units. It values the assets of these units to carry out possible strategic sales.
The Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently sanctioned the procurement of one lakh oxygen portable oxygen concentrators from the PM-CARES Fund.
Oxygen Generation Plants
Initially, 162 Pressure Swing Adsorption Oxygen Generation plants were sanctioned under PM CARES Fund. Later this was increased to 551 Pressure Swing Adsorption Oxygen Generation Plants.
So far, 1,213 Pressure Swing Adsorption oxygen plants have been approved under the PM-CARES fund.
France, UK and several other foreign countries have come forward to help India by supplying Oxygen Concentrators. An inter-ministerial group has been set up to clear the relief materials immediately and make sure they the respective institutes on time.
Why is India facing a huge Oxygen Shortage crisis?
Most of the Oxygen producing plants in India are located in the eastern part of the country. They are thousand miles away from Mumbai and Delhi where the COVID-19 surges are at the highest.
Oxygen is not easy to transport. It should either be transported by trains or by roads. It cannot be flown on planes.
The Cryogenic tanks that hold compressed oxygen cannot be manufactured quickly. It takes about four to six months to produce.
Why are Oxygen levels low with COVID-19?
The COVID-19 virus causes Hypoxia. Hypoxia is difficulty in breathing. A healthy lung keeps the blood level oxygen at 95% to 100%. When the blood level oxygen dips below 92% it causes a concern and supplementary oxygen should be provided.
The COVID-19 virus affects the lung cells. Their infection damages the walls and linings of the air sacs where the exchange of the gases (oxygen and carbon dioxide) occurs.
The Government of India has set up a High level Inter-Ministerial Group to establish procedures for immediate clearance of relief materials from foreign countries.
About the Group
As the number of COVID-19 cases in India have started increasing to a great extent, several foreign countries such as UK, USA, France Germany, Ireland, Kuwait have been sending essentials such as ventilators, oxygen concentrators, respiratory materials. The high level Inter-Ministerial Group will make sure if these materials are cleared and dispatched promptly to the recipient institutions located in different parts of the country.
What are the relief materials received from foreign countries?
UK announced that it is to send 495 oxygen concentrators, twenty manual ventilators and 120 non-invasive ventilators.
The relief materials from France is arriving in two phases. In the first phase, France is sending oxygen generating plants that can be installed quickly, 200 electric syringe pushers and twenty eight respirators. In the second phase, France will send five oxygen containers.
Ireland will send 700 oxygen concentrators.
Germany will send mobile oxygen production plants. 120 ventilators and 80 million KN95 masks. Also, Germany is planning to conduct a webinar on testing and RNA sequencing of COVID-19.
Australia is to send 500 ventilators, 20,000 face shields, 100,000 goggles, 500,000 P2 and N95 masks, one million surgical masks.
Help from the US
The United States is to deliver raw materials for vaccines to the Serum Institute of India to produce COVISHILED vaccine of Astra Zeneca.
The USAID is to help India in oxygen transport. US will also provide technical support to make sure if the delivered oxygen equipment is compatible with the devices in India.
Additional technical assistance is to be provided by Centres for Disease Control to support Vaccine readiness in the country.
The US Government has identified commercial suppliers of Remdesivir.
Also, Personal Protective Equipment and Rapid Diagnostic Testing supplies have been identified to be transferred to India immediately.