Current Affairs 3rd May

Fix oxygen deficit by May 3, set up buffer stock: SC to govt. #GS2 #Governance

The Supreme Court, in an order released late on Sunday, directed the Centre to ensure that the deficit of oxygen to treat COVID-19 patients in the national capital should be rectified on or before midnight of May 3 (Monday).

A Special Bench, led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, ordered the Centre to act “in collaboration” with the States to “prepare a buffer stock of oxygen for emergency purposes and decentralise the location of the emergency stocks”.

“The emergency stocks shall be created within the next four days and are to be replenished on a day-to-day basis, in addition to the existing allocation of oxygen supply to the States.

https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/fix-oxygen-deficit-by-may-3-set-up-buffer-stock-sc-to-govt/article34469056.ece

Several foreign embassies in Delhi face COVID-19 onslaught #GS2 #IR

A significant number of foreign diplomats in the national capital has been hit by the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The situation was brought to light on Saturday evening with the Embassy of the Philippines seeking oxygen cylinders from the volunteers of the Indian Youth Congress (IYC). The health crisis in the capital’s diplomatic enclave has spread to several foreign missions, including the New Zealand High Commission which sought help from the IYC publicly on Sunday morning, triggering an online exchange between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Congress Rajya Sabha member Jairam Ramesh.

“Could you please help with oxygen cylinder urgently at the New Zealand High Commission”, asked the High Commission to B.V. Srinivas, national president of the IYC. The Hindu has learnt that the High Commission has several cases of COVID-19, out of which two are serious and required oxygen support immediately.

The mission deleted the tweet soon after it was noticed. However, the volunteers of the IYC delivered several oxygen cylinders to the mission within an hour of the public appeal. “New Zealand High Commission opened gates of the Embassy and accepted cylinders,” Mr. Srinivas tweeted.

Some time later, Mr. Jaishankar took to social media to claim that the IYC had supplied oxygen in an “unsolicited” manner and that the mission had “no COVID cases”. “Clearly for cheap publicity by you know who. Giving away cylinders like this when there are people in desperate need of oxygen is simply appalling,” Mr. Jaishankar tweeted.

Earlier Mr. Ramesh had asked if the Ministry of External Affairs was “sleeping” while the Indian Youth Congress was attending to “SOS calls from foreign embassies”.

The High Commission ostensibly went public after waiting for oxygen cylinders for many hours. The mission had set up a healthcare unit on the premises for ailing individuals and the support staff but the increasing number of cases has made it impossible for the unit to function without additional oxygen support, it has been learnt.

Many missions hit

A bulk of the foreign missions are located in the Chanakyapuri area, where many diplomats also have their residences. Other than the Philippines, several South East Asian nations have also been impacted by COVID-19, it has been learnt.

Several staff members of the Royal Thai Embassy have been affected by COVID-19, and with critical shortage of oxygen and intensive care units in the national capital the Embassy arranged an air ambulance two days ago to repatriate their nationals, it has been learnt.

The embassies of Singapore and Vietnam also had several cases. Some embassies have resorted to helping themselves with oxygen from whoever can give them, one diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

The U.S. Embassy has also come out with a public statement saying they are unable to share information about the COVID-19 situation inside the mission because of “privacy concerns” but maintained that the health and safety of U.S. Government personnel and their dependents is among the Department’s highest priorities. The spokesperson of the U.S. Embassy said the mission will take “all necessary measures to safeguard health and well-being” of the employees.

A diplomat from the Palestinian Embassy informed that both he and his wife had tested positive and are currently under medication. He said there are others too who might require help.

https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/several-foreign-embassies-in-delhi-face-covid-19-onslaught/article34468550.ece

Don’t discriminate in vaccination: SC #GS2 #Governance

The Supreme Court said in an order on Sunday that vaccinations being provided to citizens constitute a valuable public good, and there should be no discrimination in the process.

A Special Bench led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, also comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao and S. Ravindra Bhat, said, “Discrimination cannot be made between different classes of citizens who are similarly circumstanced on the ground that while the Central government will carry the burden of providing free vaccines for the 45 years and above population, the State governments will discharge the responsibility of the 18 to 44 age group on such commercial terms as they may negotiate.”

“ Prima facie , the rational method of proceeding in a manner consistent with the right to life (which includes the right to health) under Article 21 would be for the Central government to procure all vaccines and to negotiate the price with vaccine manufacturers.

Once quantities are allocated by it to each State government, the latter would lift the allocated quantities and carry out the distribution,” the court directed in its 64-page order dated April 30, but published on May 2.

The court recognised the work of healthcare professionals. “We hope their welfare is considered seriously by the Central and State governments. Further, we would wish to use this order to place on record our sincerest appreciation for all the public healthcare professionals — not just limited to the doctors, but also nurses, hospital staff, ambulance drivers, sanitation workers and crematorium workers. It is through their dedicated efforts that the effect of COVID-19 pandemic is being currently tackled in India.

‘Create incentive’

The Bench noted that “infected healthcare personnel are left to fend for themselves without adequate availability of beds, oxygen or essential drugs. Further, some of them have also often been asked to report back to duty within 10 days of first testing positive (provided they are asymptomatic), even though a longer recuperation period is often recommended”.

“There must be an effective policy to ensure that the nation truly acknowledges their effort and creates incentives for them. We hope it will be remedied soon by the Central and State governments through the introduction of appropriate guidelines and measures.”

https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/dont-discriminate-in-vaccination-sc/article34469033.ece

Centre faces questions over how it plans to use foreign aid #GS2 #IR

France delivered eight oxygen plants, four of which, government sources said, would be used at hospitals in Delhi, as questions were put to the Centre on the use of foreign aid.

The consignment of about 28 tonnes of equipment sent by the French government to India was delivered to the Indian Red Cross Society at the Delhi airport and then transferred to the Centre.

The sources said each of the eight “hospital level” oxygen generators would provide oxygen for about 250 beds each. “Each of these oxygen generator plants will make an Indian hospital fully oxygen Aatmanirbhar for more than 10 years. I believe healthcare can be a new field to develop our strategic partnership, building on our respective strengths.

The French Embassy also confirmed that the oxygen generators had been earmarked for eight specific hospitals, and that six would go to the Delhi/NCR area, and one each to Telengana and Haryana. The statement is a major departure from the government’s policy of not accepting aid that is “tied” to specific donees, and comes in the wake of a number of calls for the government to be more transparent about how it plans to route the massive shipments of aid coming in from about 40 countries.

Fund route

Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) officials told The Hindu that the process on how to route the funding, which is handed over by foreign governments through the Indian Red Cross to the Ministry of Health, is being coordinated by an Empowered Group of Ministers and officials, which is fielding the requests from various State governments.

“Whatever is coming in from abroad is going to the Ministry of Health and then, depending on need, will be processed. Only some of the countries who have offered aid have delivered so far; we are monitoring them on the basis of logistics and the time frame they are being sent.

Transparent system

On Friday, the U.S. State Department in Washington also fielded questions about the lack of a “website or transparent system”, as well as “accountability for the U.S. taxpayers’ money being sent”. Principal Deputy Spokesperson Jalina Porter replied that the U.S. had no response at the time, adding, “Rest assured that the United States is committed to making sure that our partners in India are taken care of in this crisis.”

When asked, the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi’s spokesperson said that the U.S. is providing more than $100 million in assistance through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and that three of six planeloads of equipment and relief supplies had already been delivered, and the remainder was “on its way” “We refer you to the Government of India for information about the deployment and use of these materials subsequent to their transfer.

On Sunday, the third U.S. aid shipment, containing 1,000 oxygen cylinders, was delivered at the Delhi airport. Overnight, Germany sent a shipment including 120 ventilators, and plans to send one mobile oxygen production and filling plant along with 13 German technical personnel later this week. Uzbekistan also delivered 100 oxygen concentrators, while Belgium delivered 1,000 vials of the medicine Remdesivir late on Saturday.

Officials said that as several countries including the U.S., Germany and France are sending military and technical personnel to run some of the equipment being sent, the next logistical challenge will also involve ensuring that foreign personnel are assisted locally at the areas where the aid is sent to within the country.

https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/centre-faces-questions-over-how-it-plans-to-use-foreign-aid/article34468560.ece

India receives aid from Taiwan #GS2 #IR

India on Sunday received assistance from Taiwan, including oxygen concentrators and cylinders, with more batches of medical equipment set to follow from Taipei.

A first batch, consisting of 50 oxygen concentrators and 500 oxygen cylinders, landed in New Delhi on Sunday on a Boeing 747 of China Airlines, the government-owned airline of Taiwan.

“Taiwan’s deployment of medical supplies is testament to the close collaboration and partnership across multiple agencies on both sides,” said a statement from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Centre (TECC), Taiwan’s representative office in India. India and Taiwan do not maintain formal diplomatic relations or embassies.

We’re closely monitoring developments and holding in-depth discussions aimed at providing requisite support to our Indian friends at a time of great need.”

India, meanwhile, has not yet accepted Beijing’s offers of aid and assistance that were conveyed again on Friday both in a message from President Xi Jinping to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and in a phone call between Foreign Minister Wang Yi and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar.

Production underway

India has preferred to source medical supplies from China on a commercial basis. A large number of such orders have been placed by Indian companies with Chinese firms, with the production “of at least 40,000 oxygen generators” currently under way, China’s Ambassador to India Sun Weidong told the Communist Party-run Global Times .

“As far as I know, Chinese companies have been accelerating production of at least 40,000 oxygen generators — orders placed by the Indian side, and they are working around the clock to deliver them as soon as possible. Many Chinese firms and private organisations are also using their own channels to provide various forms of help to India,” he said.

Mr. Sun said on Twitter the past two weeks “witnessed 61 freight flights from China to India in operation” and China had, since April, supplied “more than 5,000 ventilators, 21,569 oxygen generators, over 21 million masks and around 3,800 tons of medicine to India”.

https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/india-receives-aid-from-taiwan/article34468548.ece

What new research says about climate change causing a shift in Earth’s axis #GS1 #Geography

Rising sea levels, heatwaves, melting glaciers and storms are some of the well-known consequences of climate change. New research has added yet another impact to this list – marked shifts in the axis along which the Earth rotates.

A study published in Geophysical Research Letters of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) says that due to the significant melting of glaciers because of global temperature rise, our planet’s axis of rotation has been moving more than usual since the 1990s.

While this change is not expected to affect daily life, it can change the length of the day by a few milliseconds, experts say.

How the Earth’s axis shifts

The Earth’s axis of rotation is the line along which it spins around itself as it revolves around the Sun. The points on which the axis intersects the planet’s surface are the geographical north and south poles.

The location of the poles is not fixed, however, as the axis moves due to changes in how the Earth’s mass is distributed around the planet. Thus, the poles move when the axis moves, and the movement is called “polar motion”.

According to NASA, data from the 20th century shows that the spin axis drifted about 10 centimetres per year. Meaning over a century, polar motion exceeds 10 metres.

Generally, polar motion is caused by changes in the hydrosphere, atmosphere, oceans, or solid Earth. But now, climate change is adding to the degree with which the poles wander.

What the new study says

Since the 1990s, climate change has caused billions of tonnes of glacial ice to melt into oceans. This has caused the Earth’s poles to move in new directions.

As per the study, the north pole has shifted in a new eastward direction since the 1990s, because of changes in the hydrosphere (meaning the way in which water is stored on Earth). From 1995 to 2020, the average speed of drift was 17 times faster than from 1981 to 1995. Also, in the last four decades, the poles moved by about 4 metres in distance.

The calculations were based on satellite data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission as well as estimates of glacier loss and groundwater pumping going back to the 1980s, according to Science Alert.

“The faster ice melting under global warming was the most likely cause of the directional change of the polar drift in the 1990s,” the study says.

“The other possible causes are (terrestrial water storage) change in non‐glacial regions due to climate change and unsustainable consumption of groundwater for irrigation and other anthropogenic activities.”

While ice melting is the major factor behind increased polar motion, groundwater depletion also adds to the phenomenon. As millions of tonnes of water from below the land is pumped out every year for drinking, industries or agriculture, most of it eventually joins the sea, thus redistributing the planet’s mass.

https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-what-new-research-says-about-climate-change-causing-a-shift-in-earths-axis-7299258/

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