Current Affairs 30th April 2022

Centre pushes for Corbevax recognition in other countries #GS3 #SnT

The government plans to expedite the process of recognition of COVID-19 vaccine Corbevax by other countries while its manufacturer Biological E pursues WHO’s emergency use listing for the jab being administered in India among the 12-14 years age group.

According to an internal document circulated to the members of the Empowered Group-5 on COVID-19 Vaccination, which will be meeting soon, some authorities abroad such as in Hong Kong have begun demanding vaccination certificates for children and only accept m-RNA based vaccines for them.

“It is necessary to quickly initiate the process of recognition of the Corbevax vaccine and its certificate by other countries while Biological E continues to pursue WHO’s EUL (emergency use listing) for it,” the document mentioned. It highlighted that the recent development pertaining to the World Health Organizations’ (WHO) suspension of Covaxin supply through the United Nations procurement agencies further complicates the matter and is detrimental to the acceptance of Covaxin-based vaccination certificates for children by other countries.

The issues to be discussed by the Empowered Group-5 pertains to m-RNA based booster dose requirements by countries, suspension of supply of Covaxin by the WHO, acceptance of Corbevax and Covaxin based vaccination certificates for children and international travel by Indians vaccinated with Sputnik-V.

Informed sources said the internal document circulated to members of the Empowered Group-5 comprehensively looks at all issues related to vaccines.

Heatwaves linked to man-made climate change’ #GS3 #Environment

India is gripped in the throes of a long spell of heatwaves and there is compelling evidence that a significant portion of it is due to human-induced climate change, said scientists who were part of an online webinar on climate change organised as part of the TNQ-Janelia Climate Change Summit on Friday.

Three eminent scientists with expertise in how atmospheric, land and ocean systems were influenced by greenhouse gas emissions, drew upon their decades of research to explain how the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere exacerbated temperatures in the oceans and the land and caused increased glacier melt, heightened sea level rise and led to changes in the biosphere.

Fiamma Straneo of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego drew upon her research in Greenland to demonstrate evidence of warming waters around glaciers and how it was heating even ice sheets, thereby accelerating warming.

Though global sea-levels were rising only three millimetre a year, it would be a mistake, said Dr. Straneo, to dismiss it as a minor rise because even those increases were responsible for driving greater numbers of extreme climate events such as floods.

Her colleague at Scripps, Veerbhadran Ramanathan, referenced a simulation study jointly undertaken at the Princeton University, Columbia University and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) that said if carbon emissions were unchecked, half the planet would be in severe drought by the century end.

There was already a three-fold rise in extreme precipitation events in India, a decrease in rainfall in North India and increase in precipitation in south India, he said citing research out of India. Along with carbon dioxide emissions, pollution from biomass burning combined with this and caused 1.5 million deaths annually in India.

“India could cut its pollution by half just by providing clean cooking fuel to rural household in the Indo-Gangetic plains. Societal transformation, mitigating carbon dioxide emissions and adaption were all necessary to buffer against climate change,” he added.

Core sector growth dips to 4.3% in March #GS3 #Economy

Overall core sectors’ output had grown by a sharp 12.6% a year ago. Coal output contracted by a marginal 0.1% in March, while crude oil production shrank by 3.4%, the sharpest fall in 10 months.

Electricity generation expanded at the fastest pace in seven months at 4.9%. The eight core industries comprise 40.27% of the Index of Industrial Production (IIP).

“The first signs of the power problem that we have today could be seen in a decline in coal output by 0.1% over the 0.3% growth in March 2021,” said Bank of Baroda chief economist Madan Sabnavis.

8.8% uptick

Though the healthy 8.8% uptick in cement output can be attributed to the government’s infrastructure spending push, Mr. Sabnavis said steel output growth was still weak at 3.7%. The bank expects IIP growth to be around 2.5%-3% in March as higher inflation and rising fuel prices would affect consumption revival.

Rating agency ICRA expects IIP to grow about 3% to 3.5%, despite a slowdown in core sector output growth as well as a non-oil merchandise exports during March. “The pace of core sector growth slowed to a sedate 4.3% in March 2022, in line with our forecast of 4.4%, with a slowdown in five of the eight constituents amid an encouraging pickup in fertilizers, cement and electricity,” ICRA chief economist Aditi Nayar noted, adding that output from all sectors except crude oil and fertilizers was above pre-COVID levels.

“Going forward, the rebound in economic activity would have provided a fillip to the core sector. However, the overall outlook has got subdued by the soaring raw material prices in international markets that could pressurise profit margins for domestic producers and constrain private sector investment.

Discussed curbs on NGOs, J&K issue: EU official #GS2 #IR #Governance

Europe’s top human rights official says he raised a number of concerns during official meetings in New Delhi with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, including funding restrictions on NGOs, recent communal violence, the situation in Jammu & Kashmir, and the condition of religious minorities.

However, the official statements by the NHRC and the Minority Affairs Ministry did not refer to the contentious issues being raised. The concerns were reportedly raised when European Union Special Representative of Human Rights Eamon Gilmore, who was a guest speaker at the MEA’s Raisina Dialogue this week, met with the Indian officials along with his delegation.

In separate tweets on Friday, Mr. Gilmore said he had “also” discussed “the NHRC role in relation to FCRA, detentions, bail, sedition and anti-terrorism laws, UAPA, minorities and individual cases”. Mr. Gilmore linked the list to the NHRC version, which instead only said that Chairperson Justice Arun Mishra “[had asked] the delegation to work together to ameliorate the cause of human rights across the globe”. Ugo Astuto, Ambassador of the European Union to India, was also present at the meeting with Mr. Naqvi.

“Besides a brief insight into the functioning of the NHRC, various aspects of human rights were also discussed including the issue of patent & affordability of life saving drugs and problems of Terrorism,” the statement said.

According to sources, Mr. Naqvi reportedly said that “not a single major communal riot has taken place in India since 2014”. Mr. Naqvi also dismissed Mr. Gilmore’s contentions as “isolated incidents” which have be given “communal colour”. The entire attempt, he said is to define the Narendra Modi government.

Mr. Naqvi has not responded to Mr. Gilmore’s tweet. Mr. Gilmore’s description of the meeting with Mr. Naqvi was also at odds with the official government version put out. While the Minority Affairs Minister had tweeted that he “apprised the delegation of the effective results of welfare programmes being carried out by the Narendra Modi goverment for socio-economic-educational empowerment of all sections of society including the Minorities”, Mr. Gilmore’s response referencing the earlier statement said that he had discussed, “FCRA, use of sedition and anti-terrorism laws, detentions, the situation of minorities, communal violence, situation in Jammu Kashmir, and individual cases,” with Mr. Naqvi.

The MEA, the NHRC and the Minority Affairs Ministry did not respond to requests for a comment on the issues discussed during the meetings in Delhi, or on the reason for the discrepancy between the two. Sources told The Hindu that Mr. Gilmore’s comments had been “strongly countered”.

While the EU did not respond to a specific question about the “individual” cases mentioned, sources said Mr. Gilmore discussed the death of Jesuit priest Stan Swamy in custody in July 2021 during the meeting. Earlier, Mr. Gilmore had called Mr. Swamy as “a defender of indigenous peoples’ rights”.

An NHRC official said Mr. Swamy’s case was an individual one and the commission had issued to the Maharashtra government to ensure “every possible medical treatment” was provided to him.

Economy may take till FY35 to overcome COVID-19 losses #GS3 #Economy

The Indian economy may take more than a decade to overcome the losses caused by the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, according to Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) Report on Currency and Finance (RCF).

“The pandemic is a watershed moment and the structural changes catalysed by the pandemic can potentially alter the growth trajectory in the medium term,” the authors observed.

“The pre-COVID trend growth rate works out to 6.6% and excluding the slowdown years it works out to 7.1%. Taking actual growth rate of (-) 6.6% for 2020-21, 8.9% for 2021-22 and assuming growth rate of 7.2% for 2022-23 and 7.5% beyond that, India is expected to overcome COVID-19 losses in 2034-35,” they said in a chapter titled ‘Scars of the pandemic’. “The output loss for individual years have been worked out at Rs. 19.1 lakh crore, Rs. 17.1 lakh crore and Rs. 16.4 lakh crore for 2020-21, 2021-22 and 2022-23, respectively,” they added. The theme of the report for FY22 is ‘Revive and Reconstruct’.

“The report reflects the views of the contributors and not of the Reserve Bank,” the RBI said.

‘Price stability is key’

As per the RCF, a feasible range of medium-term steady GDP growth in India works out to 6.5%-8.5%, consistent with the blueprint of reforms and ‘timely rebalancing of monetary and fiscal policies will likely be the first step in this journey.

The authors also said price stability was a necessary precondition for strong and sustainable growth.