Daily Current Affairs - 19-03-2021

Department of Science and Technology (DST) announced on March 18, 2021, that ‘Indo-US Science and Technology Forum (IUSSTF)’ has launched “US India Artificial Intelligence Initiative”. The initiative will focus on the Artificial Intelligence cooperation in priority critical areas for both nations.

Highlights

The DST while launching the initiative emphasized on the need to scale up the Science & Technology partnership between both the countries. This partnership will help in solving the problems of both countries and overcome the barriers for growth. This partnership between India and US was done on the basis of shared values of openness, transparency and reciprocity. It also encourages the innovation that will benefit both.

US India Artificial Intelligence Initiative (USIAI)

The USIAI will serve as the platform of discussing the challenges, opportunities, development collaboration and barriers for AI research. It will enable the AI innovation. The initiative would also help in sharing the ideas for the development of an AI workforce. The initiative will be recommending the mechanisms and modes to catalyse the partnerships. It will also provide an opportunity for the key stakeholders in order to share their experiences, and identify new opportunities. The areas like R&D will also benefit from this partnership. USIAI will act as a platform for both the nations on which they would discuss the emerging AI landscape. It will also help in addressing the challenge of developing the Artificial Intelligence Workforce. It focuses on the identifying the technical, research, infrastructure & workforce challenges & opportunities. The initiative will also help in bringing together the stakeholders from the United States and India to create synergies which in turn will help in addressing the challenges with respect to science & technology and society.

The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) has asked the general and health insurance companies on March 19, 2020 to mandatorily offer the sum insured in between rupees 50,000 to rupees 10 lakh under the standard health insurance product. This move was announced in order to enhance the coverage which are available under Arogya Sanjeevani product.

Background

The IRDAI had also mandated all the general and health insurers to offer the standard individual health insurance product with the maximum sum insured up to rupees 5 lakh and minimum of rupees 1 lakh. This was done in order to reduce the confusion and encourage more people to buy health insurance.

Highlights

The insurers have offered the sum insured to rupees 50,000 under the Arogya sanjeevani product with no upper limit because of rising covid-19 cases and healthcare costs. Most of the insurers were not offering the Arogya Sanjeevani policy above the maximum original limit of rupees 5 lakh. But the latest modification to the sum insured slabs of the product will make it compulsory for insurers to offer the sum up to rupees 10 lakh. This modification will come into effect from May 1, 2021. Insurance companies will be able to file the tables of premium rates for the revised sum assured in accordance with the guidelines of filing of minor modifications in individual insurance products. The regulators will retain the unique identification number (UIN) after the modifications.

Arogya Sanjeevani

Arogya Sanjeevani is the standard health insurance product which offers a medical coverage to families and individuals with respect to the basis hospitalization expenses. It also covers the Covid-19 treatment expanses. The product comes with a co-pay of 5 percent and sub-limit of 2 percent on the room rent. It also covers the room, boarding and nursing expenses up to 2% of the sum insured. It is subject to a maximum of rupees 5,000 in a day.

Haryana Assembly has passed the “Haryana Recovery of damages to property during disturbance to public Bill, 2021” on March 18, 2021 to recover the compensation from the protesters if they cause damage to property.

Provisions of the Bill

The bill was passed by a voice vote. The Bill provides for the recovery of damages to properties which is caused by the persons during disturbances to public order by the assembly, lawful or unlawful means like riots and violent disorder. The bill also comprises of the provision to constitute the Claims Tribunal in order to determine the liability, assess the damages caused and to compensate for the damage. The bill is not meant for people’s democratic right of holding protest but for the people who damage the public and private property.

Background

The Uttar Pradesh was the first state that passed a bill for the recovery from the people who damage the public property during agitation and protests. As per the “Uttar Pradesh Recovery of Damages to Public and Private Property Bill, 2021” if the protesters found guilty of damaging the government or private properties will be facing the legal imprisonment for one year or fine of ₹5,000 to ₹1 lakh. This bill was passed to empower the joint and deputy commissioners of police in order to act under the legislation.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has joined the USO India and Toonz Media Group over the water conservation awareness programme for students.

Highlights

For the water conservation programme, the students have created the animation videos which will be unveiled on the occasion of World Water Day on March 22, 2021. It will be unveiled as a part of “H2Ooooh! – Waterwise Program” for the school students. This programme is organised in partnership with the National Mission for Clean Ganga, Water Digest magazine, United Schools Organization India (USO India) and Toonz Media Group.

H2Ooooh! – Waterwise Program

This water conservation programme was launched by the UNESCO New Delhi in September 2020. This programme was launched for school children of India. The programme encourages the school children in the age group of 6-14 years to submit the story ideas and cartoons with respect to the rising water crisis in India. This programme has been divided in three phases. It aims to boost creativity and raise the awareness on water conservation and the sustainable use among the school students. Since the launch of the programme, around 17,000 students of 43 schools across India have been engaged in the programme.

First Phase

Under the first phase of the mission, schools held the screenings of 24 animation videos in English as well as Hindi. The videos were created on different water issues for the students of Class I to VIII. These videos were originally developed by the UNESCO Venice. It was later translated into Hindi, by the UNESCO New Delhi Office.

Second Phase

The second phase was implemented in December 2020. During this phase, a competition was initiated in schools to pick top ideas. A total of 2000 students participated in qualifier round out of which 93 students were selected to undergo the training by Toonz Media.

Russia hosted the “Afghan Peace Meet” on March 18, 2021. The meeting was organised to bring together the government representatives and the Taliban adversaries. It was also attended by the international observers in order to help Afghanistan to start its stalled peace process.

Highlights

The meeting was held for one-day. It was the first meeting among the three planned international conferences. Three meeting have been planned ahead of the deadline of May 1, 2021 for the final withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan. This date for the withdrawal of the troops from Afghanistan was fixed in an agreement between U.S. and Taliban that was signed in 2019.

Russia’s mediation

Russia is mediating the Afghanistan Peace Process because the talks in Doha between Afghan government and Taliban got stalled. US and Afghanistan have been asking for the ceasefire on the other hand, the Taliban seeks to negotiate it under the peace talks with Afghan government.

Afghan Peace Process

The peace process comprises of the proposals and negotiations with the objective of ending the ongoing war in Afghanistan. The efforts to bring peace have taken place since the war started in 2001. But these negotiations and peace movement intensified in the year 2018 amid the talks between the Taliban and the United States. Taliban is the main insurgent group which is fighting against the Afghan government and the American troops. Apart from the United States the peace process is also facilitated by the regional powers like India, China and Russia and NATO. Two peace treaties have been signed as a part of peace process. The first treaty was signed in September 2016 between Afghan government and Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin militant group while the second peace treaty was signed on February 29, 2020 between the U.S. and Taliban. The 2020 treaty had called for the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan within 14 months if Taliban follows the terms of agreement. But after this agreement, there was a surge in insurgent attacks against the security forces of Afghanistan. In November 2020, the number of civilian casualties was the highest of all.

The Minister for Electronics and IT, Ravi Shankar Prasad, in a written reply to Rajya Sabha has said that; India has developed its first indigenously developed App Store called “Mobile Seva Appstore”. The app store hosts some 965 live apps of several domains and categories of public services. This Indian App Store will be available for free of cost in the initial phases.

Highlights

The minister further highlighted that, while the government is encouraging the private players to host apps, it is also showing its interest to develop and strengthen its own mobile app store. This reply was given by the minister on the question, whether absence of India’s own digital store and its dependence on external app stores of Google and Apple is creating problems for the India’s digital ecosystem or the ministry is considering having its own digital store for self-reliance.

Largest User of Mobile Apps

The minister also informed that, India is the largest user of mobile apps. Further, as per India App Market Statistics report 2021, around 5 percent of the apps on Android belongs to the Indian Apps developers.

Mobile Seva

It is an innovative initiative which has been launched by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY). It is implemented by Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC). It seeks to enable all the central, state and local government departments and agencies to deliver their services using the channels of mobile like SMS, USSD, IVRS, Mobile Applications and AppStore. It is a centrally hosted cloud based mobile platform which allows to offer services through mobile devices across India.

Mobile Seva AppStore

It is a mobile application hosting platform which is owned by the government of India. The App Store has been created to provide a hosting platform for the Indian mobile application developers. It will be based upon service-oriented architecture and cloud-based technologies. It is India’s first indigenously developed App Store of which the Central, State and UT Ministries and Departments are already part of. On the platform, the government Department or the private Developers can host their mobile application for the delivery of the government and other public services related to health, education, agriculture, online payments, financial, electoral services, social welfare, transport, food and energy.

The Parliament of Spain has passed and voted in favour of law that legalises the euthanasia on March 18, 2021. Thus, the country has become one among few nations that allow the terminally-ill or gravely-injured patients to end their life.

Key Points

Passing this law was the priority for Socialist Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez’s government. This law was drafted following the public pressure which was generated due to several high-profile cases while most specific case being that of Ramon Sampedro whose situation was immortalised in Oscar-winning 2004 film titled “The Sea Inside”. Thus, the parliament voted in favour of the law. The law was passed with 202 votes in favour, 141 votes against and two abstentions in the chamber of 350-seat. Following this, Spain has become the fourth European nation which has decriminalise the assisted. The other four EU Nation include Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg.

About the legislation

The Spanish legislation will allow the passive euthanasia in which the medical staff will intentionally end a life to relieve the suffering. This will be done by halting the life serving medical treatment. The law has also allowed the assisted suicide in which the patient will carry out the procedure of ending life. In order to go through this procedure, the patient must be a Spanish national or a legal resident. The patients must also be “fully aware and conscious” while making the request. The request needs to be submitted in writing two time with the gap of 15 days. The request of the patients can be rejected by the doctor if the requirements are not met. Further, the request must be approved by the second medic and by the evaluation body.

The European Union (EU) comprising of 27 members has joined the “Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) initiative” of India. The EU joined this initiative following its endorsement of the charter of the CDRI.

Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure initiative

CDRI is an international coalition of countries, United Nations (UN) agencies, private sectors, multilateral development banks and academic institutions. The initiative aims to promote the disaster-resilient infrastructure. The initiative was launched with the objective of promoting the research and knowledge sharing in the areas of infrastructure risk management, financing, and recovery mechanisms. It also supports the sustainable development. The CDRI Initiative was launched by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the year 2019. The initiative was launched at the UN Climate Change Summit. It also supports the sustainable development. The initiative also focuses on developing the disaster-resilience in the ecological, social, and economic infrastructure. It seeks to achieve the substantial changes in the policy frameworks of the member countries.

Why EU joined CDRI?

The EU released its statement on March 18, 2021 that the climate-related extreme events are increasing globally. The ongoing covid-19 pandemic has further reinforced the need of robust disaster preparedness. It has also reinforced the need to invest in the green infrastructure, renewable energy, energy and resource efficiency, renovation projects, large-scale retrofitting, and the circular economy.” Thus, EU fund the CDRI as a welcome initiative to help in tackling these objectives. It will also help in implementing the Paris Agreement in a multilateral approach. Thus, the EU joined this initiative. This initiative also aligns with the objectives of “European Green Deal” and “EU Strategy on Adaptation”. This further encouraged the EU to join the India-led initiative.

The Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Ashok Gehlot, announced on March 18, 2021 that the much-anticipated Universal Health Scheme (UHS) called “Mukhya Mantri Chiranjeevi Yojana” will be launched on May 1, 2021.

Highlights

The chief minister also announced that, the registration for those who are not included in National Food Security Act (NFSA) or the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) beneficiary list will start from April 1, 2021. He further announced to increase the MLA Local Area Development (MLA LAD) fund from existing Rs 2.25 crore to Rs 5 crore annually.

Background

This universal health coverage scheme was announced in the State budget speech on February 24, 2021. The government had announced this scheme with a budget outlay of Rs 3,500 crore. This budget was passed in order to ensure that healthcare is more accessible to citizens. Chief Minister also announced to set up the nursing colleges at 25 district headquarters. He also highlighted that, Public Health Colleges will also be established in all seven divisional headquarters.

About Mukhyamantri Chiranjeevi Yojana

Under the scheme, a cashless health services will be provided to all the families in Rajasthan. The families will get health services up to Rs 5 lakh. This scheme was announced under the measures so as to reinforce the health infrastructure in Rajasthan.

Rajasthan Model of Public Health (RMPH)

The “Rajasthan Model of Public Health” was announced during the state budget for 2021-22. Under this model, the state government will bring the “Right to Health Bill” with the emphasis on the rights of patients. The state will take Preventive Care measures, Primary Care measures and Curative Care measures under the model. These measures will be taken in accordance with the recommendations of World Health Organisation (WHO). Under this Universal Health Coverage Plan, each family will get Rs 5 lakh health cover. It will also cover the beneficiary of ‘Ayushman Bharat – Mahatma Gandhi Rajasthan Swasthya Bima Yojana (AB-MGRSBY)’. The benefits can be availed for free.

The Rajya Sabha has passed the “Insurance Amendment Bill 2021”. The Bill will amend the Insurance Act, 1938. The bill was passed even after the Opposition parties was criticising the bill for its clause that enable “control and ownership” by the foreign investors.

Key Provisions of the bill

The bill will increase the limit of foreign direct investment (FDI) from 49 percent to 74 percent in Indian insurance companies. The bill also comprises of the provision for removal of restrictions on ownership & control on the insurance companies. As per the bill, majority of directors on the board and key management persons will have to be resident Indians. Thus, this provision will make them accountable to the Indian law. Further, the bill specifies that at least half of directors have to be the independent directors which also ensures the accountability.

Background

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has proposed during her presentation of the Union Budget 2020-21 to liberalize the foreign direct investment (FDI) in Indian insurance companies to 74%.

Benefits

This move will provide access to fresh capital to some of the insurers. The experts also believe that the decision will also benefit the individual policyholders. Increase in the FDI limit will also attract the foreign capital where it is required. It will ensure higher penetration and will bring a new wave of transformative change in order to create more of value-based affordable healthcare for Indians.

Life Insurance Sector in India

The market for insurance which covers both public and private sector organisations. As an “Union List Subject”, Insurance is listed in the Seventh Schedule of the constitution of India. Thus, this sector can only be legislated by Central Government. In India, the insurance sector has gone through several phases since government allowed the private companies to solicit the insurance in the year 2000. The government also allowed FDI in Insurance by setting the limit on FDI to 26%. In the year 2014, this limit was increased to 49%.

The government has set up 11 committees which will be led by the concerned line ministries apart from officials from Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and NITI Aayog.  The committee will expedite the transition India from a linear to a circular economy across the 11 focus areas.

Highlights

These committees will be preparing the comprehensive action plans to help in transitioning from the linear to the circular economy in the respective focus areas. The committee will also carry the necessary modalities which in turn will ensure the effective implementation of findings and recommendations.

Focus Area

The government has selected 11 focus area to move from linear economy to the circular economy. The areas include: Municipal Solid Waste & Liquid Waste, Electronic Waste, Scrap Metal (Ferrous & Non-Ferrous), Solar Panels, Gypsum, Lithium-Ion Batteries, Agriculture Waste, Toxic Hazardous Industrial Waste, Used Oil Waste, Tyre and Rubber Recycling and End-of-life Vehicles (ELVs).

What is the need of transition?

Sustainable growth is the key element of the Aatma-Nirbhar Bharat initiative. So, India needs a development model for the optimum utilization of resources. Thus, in the light of climate change, growing population, rapid urbanization, and environmental pollution, there is a need to move towards the circular economy.

Circular Economy

Circular economy or  circularity is an economic system which aims to eliminating the waste and continual use of resources. This system accounts for reuse, repair, refurbishment, remanufacturing, recycling and sharing in order to create a closed-loop system. Thus, it minimises the use of resource inputs. It also minimises the creation of pollution, waste and carbon emissions. If India adopts the circular economy path, it could bring in the substantial annual benefits. It will help in reducing the congestion and pollution.

Government Policies

The Indian Government has been actively formulating the policies and has been promoting the projects which will drive country towards the circular economy. Government has notified several rules like “Plastic Waste Management Rules, Construction & Demolition Waste Management Rules, e-Waste Management Rules and Metals Recycling Policy etc.” NITI Aayog has also undertaken initiatives which ensures the economic growth. It organises an International conference on “Sustainable Growth through National Recycling”.

United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) have announced for a $41 million-loan guarantee program in order to finance the investment in the renewable energy solutions by Indian Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

Highlights

The USAID and DFC are jointly sponsoring the $41 million loan portfolio guarantee. This load amount will help to finance the investments by Indian SMEs for the renewable energy solutions and rooftop solar installations. These loans will enable the SMEs to access the reliable power and cut costs.

Significance of the move

Investments in the solar solutions, which will be secured by the credit guarantees, will help in improving the access to clean, steady and affordable energy. It will also help in furthering the progress towards clean energy transition and climate change mitigation in India.

What was the need of Funding?

In India, the commercial and industrial sectors pay a high fee for their electricity. This makes the rooftop solar a sustainable and cost-saving investment. On the other hand. The SMEs and residential consumers face the challenge of securing the finances which are required to install and use the rooftop panels. Thus, this finance from the USAID & DFC will help the SMEs to finance the investment for solutions by SMEs which accounts for 48 per cent of the total energy consumed in the industrial sector of India.

Rooftop solar power generation

The rooftop solar power generation helps in lower the monthly energy costs. It also drives the important social benefits such as job creation and economic growth. It also helps in reducing the carbon emissions and improves the air quality.’

Background

USAID and DFC have partnered with New York-based Encourage Capital to tackle the problem. It is an environmentally focused investment firm. They have also collaborated with the two Indian non-banking financial companies called cKers Financial and woman-owned Electronica Finance Ltd (EFL).

The Union Minister of Women & Child Development, Smriti Irani, in a reply to supplementary question in Rajya Sabha has replied that, the central government will soon establish a women helpline centres in foreign countries which will look after the distressed overseas residents.

Highlights

These Women Helpline Centres are being set up with the help of Ministry of external affairs in other countries. This is being done to ensure safety and security of Indian women across the world. The union minister also informed that the government has associated with NIMHANS for the mental health outreach of the children and has launched project SAMVAD. This project is providing the psychological help to the children in distress. The centre has also collaborated with NALSA and the Ministry of Home Affairs to ensure a fair compensation for the acid attack victim.

NIMHANS-Government ties

The Ministry of Women and Child Development is funding the project SAMVAD which is led by NIMHANS. This project aims for mental health outreach for the Child Survivors of trafficking, Child in conflict with law or the children who are abandoned and orphaned.

Project SAMVAD

This project is called “Support, Advocacy and Mental Health Interventions for Children in Vulnerable Circumstances and Diseases”. This project was launched in June 2021. It is being run in association with the Panchayati Raj Ministry. The total cost of the project is ₹56 crore for the period of five years. Till date, a total of 41,000 personnel has come in contact with the children in need of care and protection. These personnel were trained across 28 States to screen the children having mental concerns to ensure the early intervention.

About NIMHANS

NIMHANS is “National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences”. It is a premier medical institution located in Bengaluru. It is the apex centre of mental health and neuroscience education. It operates autonomously under Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. It has been ranked 4th best medical institute across India.