Daily Current Affairs - 30-06-2021

India has been ranked at 10th position in the cybersecurity index.

Key points

Background

This ranking was announced at a time when government has been dealing with instances of cross-border cyber-attacks. In February 2021, several instances were observed where government domain email addresses were used to launch cyber-attacks.

Global Cybersecurity Index (GCI)

GCI is a project of International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to rank cybersecurity capabilities of nations across the globe. It is a trusted reference measuring commitment of nations to cybersecurity at a world level. It is published to raise awareness of importance and different dimensions of cybersecurity issues. Country’s level of development or engagement in the field of cybersecurity is assessed in five pillars

  1. Legal Measures
  2. Technical Measures
  3. Organizational Measures
  4. Capacity Development and
  5. Cooperation

And then data are aggregated into an overall score. GCI leverages capacity and expertise of different organizations in order to improve quality of survey, and to promote knowledge exchange in the fields of cybersecurity. ITU Global Cybersecurity Agenda (GCA)​ ​provides general foundation and framework for initiative.​

International Telecommunication Union (ITU)

ITU was founded in 1865 and is an integral part of United Nations 1947. It has widest decision-making scope among international ICT organizations with respect to issues addressed and types of decisions made.  Its treaties provide an international legal framework for cooperation between states, private sector etc.

Central government has extended tenure of NITI Aayog Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Amitabh Kant, by one year. His tenure will now end in June 2022. Extension order was issued by Department of Personnel and Training after it was approved by Appointments Committee of Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Who is Amitabh Kant?

He is a 1980 batch retired IAS officer of Kerala cadre. He has been at helm of policy think tank of government since 2016. Before joining NITI Aayog, he was Secretary in Government of India. He was handling industrial policy and promotion. Following his superannuation, he was appointed CEO and he will continue till 2022. He is known for his reformist mind and articulation & marketing strategies. He is the key player involved at top level in policy related matters like industrial development, technology and investment.

NITI Aayog

It is a public policy think tank of Government of India which was established in 2015 by replacing the planning commission with the aim of achieving sustainable development goals with cooperative federalism by involving State Governments in economic policy-making process. Some of its initiatives include AMRUT, 15-year road map, 7-year vision, strategy & action plan, Digital India, Medical Education Reform, Atal Innovation Mission etc.

Background

Independent Evaluation Office submitted a report to Prime Minister Narendra Modi with recommendation to replace Planning Commission with a “control commission” on 29 May 2014. Following the recommendations, Union Cabinet scrapped Planning Commission in August 2014. A Cabinet resolution was passed on January 1, 2015 to replace Planning Commission NITI Aayog which stands for National Institution for Transforming India.

India has cut import tax on crude palm oil from 15 % to 10% for three months. This new duty would be effective from June 30, 2021.

Key Points

India is world’s biggest importer of vegetable oils. But it has been struggling to bring down edible oils prices.  Thus, decision to reduce the import tax was taken. After the tax reduction, palm oil imports will account for 30.25% tax in total. It will include 10% base import duty and other taxes. Overall tax rate on palm oil imports was 35.75% earlier.

How tax cut will help?

Tax cut will make palm oil more attractive than the soy oil and sunflower oil for Indian refiners. It will thus boost imports of tropical oil in next three months and will support benchmark Malaysian prices. Duty cut will provide a necessary respite to consumers from high edible oil prices.

Background

Prices for domestic soy oil and palm oil were doubled in 2020 which hit hard the consumers who were already stung by high fuel prices and reduced incomes because of lockdowns amid COVID-19 pandemic.

Oil import in India

India imports palm oil mainly from Indonesia and Malaysia. India will buy 500,000 tonnes of additional palm oil in these three months. Average monthly imports will be around 850,000 tonnes.

Palm oil

Palm oil is the most widely used and imported oil in India. It is mainly for bulk buyers like food processors and for use in restaurants. Households in India usually prefer soy oil, sunflower oil and rapeseed oil.

Education Testing Service (ETS) has allowed use of Aadhar card for GRE and TOFEL Exams.

Key points

Educational Testing Service (ETS)

ETS conducts the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) and Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). These are standardised tests which are required to be passed to get admission in many universities in United States and elsewhere. Earlier, passport was the only accepted identification proof so far for those taking tests in India. Aadhar card will be applicable for TOEFL and GRE General home-based tests which have gained popularity during pandemic. These Internet-based tests conducted at designated centres. It will also be applicable to the new TOEFL Essentials Test which will start from August 2021 and on GRE Subject Tests which will start in October 2021.

Is this a permanent measure?

No, this decision was taken as a temporary measure. It will come into effect from July 1 and will be applicable until further notice.

About Aadhaar

It is a 12-digit unique identity number which can be obtained voluntarily by residents or passport holders of India. It is based biometric and demographic data. Data is collected by Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) which is a statutory authority established in January 2009. It comes under Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. Aadhaar is world’s largest biometric ID system. it is considered a proof of residence but not a proof of citizenship. It does not grant any rights to domicile in India.

Drug regulator of India, DCGI, has allowed Mumbai-based pharmaceutical company Cipla to import Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for restricted emergency use in India.

Key points

Moderna’s vaccine is going to be fourth COVID-19 vaccine available in India after Covaxin, Covishield and Sputnik.

About AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine Covishield

This vaccine is locally manufactured by Serum Institute of India. It was created using a weakened variant of common cold virus called adenovirus from chimps. This virus has been altered to resemble coronavirus, which will boost immune system to produce antibodies.

About Covaxin

Covaxin is an inactivated vaccine. It has been made with coronaviruses after killing them. Thus, it is safe to inject into body. It was created and being manufactured by Bharat Biotech. Immune cells in body have ability to recognise dead virus after it has been injected. It prompts immune system to produce antibodies against the coronavirus.

Sputnik Vaccine

This vaccine was created by Gamaleya Institute in Russia. It is composed of a harmless cold-type virus as a carrier which will deliver a small portion of coronavirus in body. Body then starts to manufacture antibodies which are specifically adapted to coronavirus after being vaccinated.

Moderna Vaccine

Moderna’s method of creating vaccine to protect against Covid-19 is based on messenger RNA (mRNA). mRNA helps the cells to generate immunity against coronavirus. This vaccine along with Pfizer is being preferred among wealthy countries. they are more than 90% effective at preventing coronavirus.

Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI)

DGCI is the head of department of Central Drugs Standard Control Organization in India. It is responsible for approval of licences of specified categories of drugs like blood and blood products, vaccines, IV fluids, and sera in India. It works under Ministry of Health & Family Welfare. it also sets standards for manufacturing, import, sales and distribution of drugs in India.

Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman announced plans of launching second national airline as part of broader strategy to turn kingdom into global logistics hub in a bid to diversify from oil.

Key Points

Background

Plan of creating new airlines was announced because; Prince Mohammad has been pushing for Saudi Arabia, which is the biggest Arab economy and largest country in Gulf geographically, to boost non-oil revenues to 45 billion riyals by 2030.

Boosting Non-oil revenues

Saudi Arabia government seeks to make the kingdom a global logistics hub. Plan includes the development of ports, rail and road networks. These networks would increase transport and logistics sector’s contribution about 10 % in gross domestic product which currently stands at 6 percent.

What is the purpose of creating new airline?

Comprehensive strategy of creating new airlines aims to position Saudi Arabia as global logistics hub by connecting three continents. New airline would increase number of international destinations from Saudi Arabia to more than 250. It will also double air cargo capacity to 4.5 million tonnes.

Why need of second airline was felt?

Current flag bearer Saudi Arabian Airlines, Saudia, is one of the smallest airline networks in gulf region relative to its size. Saudia has struggled with losses for years. It has also been hit hard by covid-19 pandemic.

Public Investment Fund (PIF)

PIF is the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia. it has planned to build a new airport in Riyadh as a part of new airline launch. This fund is the main vehicle of boosting Saudi Arabian investments at home and abroad.

Security and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has cleared amendments to SEBI (Listing Obligations and Disclosure Requirements) Regulations, 2015 while reviewing regulatory provisions related to independent directors.

Highlights

What rules have been amended?

Who are accredited investors?

Accredited investors can be individuals, HUFs, family trusts, partnership firms, sole proprietorships, trusts and body corporates on the basis of financial parameters.

Russia started construction of fifth nuclear power unit at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu on June 29, 2021.

Key points

Background

India and Russia started talk for constructing two units of nuclear plant at same site under the General Framework Agreement (GFA). GFA was signed in June 2017 for units five and six. Unit one and two of kudankulam plant are already operational.

About Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP)

This nuclear power plant is the largest nuclear power of India. It is located in Kudankulam town in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. Construction of the plant started on March 31, 2002. However, it faced several delays because of opposition from local fishermen.

Six reactors of KKNPP

KKNPP is scheduled to have six VVER-1000 reactors. All these reactors have been built or is being built in collaboration with Russian state company and Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL). Reactors have the installed capacity of 6,000 MW of electricity. Unit one was made operation and synchronised with southern power grid in October 2013. It has been generating electricity up to 1,000 MW. Unit two was synchronised with electricity grid on August 29, 2016. Units three & four was inaugurated on February 17, 2016. Now, construction of Unit five  & six will start.

European Medicines Agency (EMA) has excluded Serum Institute of India (SII) manufactured Covishield from the list of approved vaccines for ‘Green Pass’. As per EMA, vaccine was excluded from list because it does not have marketing authorisation in European Union (EU).

Key Points

How EU give clearance to vaccines?

EU law requires manufacturing sites and production process to be assessed, before giving clearance to vaccines.

How it will impact Indians?

Indian travellers vaccinated with Covishield may not be eligible to get European Union ‘Green Pass’.

What is Green Pass?

EU member states have started issuing digital ‘vaccine passport’ to enable easy travel into and between EU countries for the purpose of work and tourism. EU ‘Green Pass’ is also a kind of digital vaccine passport recognising EMA approved Vaxzevria version of AstraZeneca vaccine which are produced in UK and Europe, even though World Health Organisation (WHO) has endorsed SII’s Covishield for emergency use across the globe. Green pass will be launched on July 1, 2021. It will display bearer’s vaccination status.

Which vaccines are approved by EMA?

EMA, which is responsible for evaluation and supervision of medicinal products, has approved four Covid-19 vaccines namely, Comirnaty, Moderna, Vaxzevria and Janssen, as of now. But Covishield, which is the Indian version of AstraZeneca and University of Oxford’s Covid vaccine, is yet to be recognised for European market by EMA.

China was certified as malaria-free by World Health Organisation on June 30, 2021 after a 70-year effort of eradicating this mosquito-borne disease.

Highlights

China reported 30 million cases of Malaria annually in 1940s but no indigenous case was reported for four consecutive years.

Who can get Malaria-free status?

Nations that have achieved at least three consecutive years of zero indigenous cases of Malaria can apply for WHO certification of malaria-free status. To get this status, nations must present rigorous evidences and demonstrate capacity to prevent transmission re-emerging.

Status of China

China has become 40th territory to get malaria-free status by WHO. Four other countries that gained the status recently were El Salvador in 2021, Algeria & Argentina in 2019, and Paraguay & Uzbekistan in 2018. China has also become the first country in WHO’s Western Pacific region to be awarded malaria-free certification in about three decades. Others countries with this certified status are Australia (1981), Singapore (1982) and Brunei (1987).

WHO’s World Malaria Report 2020

According to WHO report, global progress against the disease was plateauing specially in African countries that are bearing the brunt of cases and deaths. As per the report, 736,000 lives were claimed in 2000. Disease had claimed an estimated 411,000 lives in 2018 while 409,000 in 2019. In 2019, global malaria cases were estimated at 229 million.  It highlights, about 90% of malaria deaths occur in Africa and majority of them are young children.

China’s battle against Malaria

China started working out where malaria was spreading and began to combat in 1950s using preventative anti-malarial medicines. It reduced mosquito breeding grounds and sprayed insecticide in homes. In 1967, China had launched a scientific programme to look after new malaria treatments, which led to the discovery of artemisinin which are the most effective antimalarial drugs.

NITI Aayog released a comprehensive study on not-for-profit hospital model in India on June 29, 2020.

Highlights

Findings of report

NSS 75th round data

According to this data, not-for-profit hospitals provide medicines to patients at 26% lesser than for-profit hospitals. It also highlights, doctor’s fees are about 18% lesser in not-for-profit hospitals.

Way Forward

NITI Aayog calls to strengthen not-for-profit hospitals by giving 100% income tax exemption for donations, fast release of dues from government schemes and grants. Not-for-profit hospitals be allowed to utilize primary health care (PHC) infrastructure to take health care in rural India.

Department of Justice has launched an “Enforcing Contracts Portal” on June 29, 2021.

Enforcing Contracts Portal

  1. Details or links of Dedicated Commercial Courts in Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Bengaluru
  2. Instructive videos related to e-filing
  3. Advocate registration
  4. Manuals on using Electronic Case Management Tools (ECMTs) like “JustIS app for judicial officers”
  5. e-Courts services app for use by lawyers
  6. repository of all related commercial laws for ready reference.

Enforcing Contracts

These contracts are an essential area of measuring time and cost in order to resolve a standardized commercial dispute and a series of good practices in the judiciary.

Government of Odisha has decided to set up district-level industry and investment promotion agencies in all the districts of state.

Key points

What are the functions of these agencies?

Who will manage these agencies?

These agencies would be managed by three professionals under the supervision of respective district collectors.

Setting up of agencies

These agencies would be set up in all the districts of Odisha in a phased manner with the help of feedback and learning of functioning and outcome. This project will start in August, 2021. For the first phase of project districts of Ganjam, Sundargarh & Jagatsinghpur were selected. In second phase, districts of Angul, Jajapur, Balasore, Keonjhar, Jharsuguda, Rayagada, and Sambalpur will be covered. Government has targeted to cover all districts by March 2022.

Significance of MSMEs

MSMEs are movers of economy. This, their promotion across all the districts of state will result into an equitable growth. This sector is a critical source of livelihood and employs about 110 million people.