Current Affairs 25th February

Vaccines for seniors and 45-plus with comorbidities from March #GS3 #SnT

People above 60 years of age and those above 45 with comorbidities would be given COVID-19 vaccines from March 1. Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said that under the second phase of vaccination, shots would be given for free at 10,000 government-run medical facilities and for a charge at 20,000 private hospitals. Charges for vaccination at private hospitals would be confirmed in a few days.

The Health Ministry is in discussion with manufacturers and hospitals to determine the cost of vaccination to be made available in private sector. The Centre would buy doses and send them to all the States for the government medical facilities.

A senior health official told The Hindu that with the expansion of the vaccination coverage, the government would bring in sub-groups to ensure that the most vulnerable were covered first. Detailed listing of the comorbidities and pre-vaccination requirements would be issued and strict surveillance and monitoring of those vaccinated would be done as part of the protocol.

Puducherry: Cabinet gives nod for President’s Rule #GS2 #Governance

The Union Cabinet approved a proposal by the Home Ministry to dissolve the Puducherry Assembly and impose President’s Rule in the Union Territory. The decision came days after the Congress-led government in the Union Territory lost power during a vote of confidence.

Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said the decision was taken as no party came forward to stake claim to form the government following the resignation of Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy. Subsequently, Lieutenant-Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan recommended President’s Rule, he said.

“After the President’s assent, the Assembly will get dissolved… Further steps for administrative work will be taken soon,” he said. He said the model code of conduct was expected to come into effect soon after the Election Commission announces the dates for elections there, along with four States.

“President’s rule was forced on the people of the UT by removing a government elected as per the rules and provisions in our Constitution,” Mr. Narayanasamy said.

Benefit of the News– President’s Rule

Winter pollution on the rise: CSE #GS3 #Environment

The levels of PM 2.5, the most threatening of particulate matter, worsened in 43 of 99 cities whose winter air in 2020 and 2019 was compared by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a non-governmental research organisation. Only 19 registered “substantial improvement” — one of these was Chennai. The rest of the cities did not experience significant change.

In the aftermath of the lockdown, several cities reported improved pollution levels but by winter, when the restrictions were significantly eased, pollution levels had clawed back to pre-COVID-19 levels, the CSE notes, underlining the significant contribution of local and regional factors to a city’s pollution levels.

The cities with the worst pollution spikes in 2020 over 2019 include Gurugram, Lucknow, Jaipur, Visakhapatnam, Agra, Navi Mumbai, and Jodhpur. Kolkata is the only mega city in this group.

In 37 cities that are otherwise showing stable or declining seasonal averages, their peak pollution levels have risen significantly during winter. These include Aurangabad, Indore, Nashik, Jabalpur, Rupnagar, Bhopal, Dewas, Kochi, and Kozhikode. On the other hand, in North India, other cities, including Delhi, have experienced the reverse — that is, an increase in the seasonal average but decline in the seasonal peak.

During winter, cool and calm weather traps and spikes daily pollution, particularly in north Indian cities located in the Indo-Gangetic Plain. This year, the average level of PM2.5 during the summer and monsoon months was considerably lower than the previous year due to the summer lockdown. However, the winter PM2.5 concentration has risen from the 2019 winter figures in cities across regions.

Local factors

This bouncing back of pollution post-lockdown unmasks the high impacts of local and regional pollution. This demands quicker regional reforms to curb pollution from vehicles, industry, power plants and waste burning to curb the winter pollution and also sustain annual improvement at a regional scale with speed.

When ranked from the most to the least polluted cities, 23 of the most polluted cities are from north India. While Mysuru is the least polluted, followed by Satna in Madhya Pradesh and Kochi in Kerala, Ghaziabad is the most polluted city in the northern belt. The study emphasises it was the smaller and upcoming cities that were emerging as pollution hotspots.

Benefit of the NewsAir pollution rise in winters

India takes on Pak. at Human Rights Council #GS2 #IR

India hit out at Pakistan at the high-level segment of the 46th Session of the Human Rights Council and said the recent release of Al-Qaeda terrorist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh is a “clear example” of the connection between the Pakistani state and terrorists.

Responding to the comments of Pakistan and Turkey on Kashmir and other issues, the Indian diplomatic team said the government of India is “fully cognizant” of its human rights obligations.

“Pakistan has been the home and patron to the largest number of internationally proscribed terrorist entities and individuals in the world,” said diplomat Seema Pujani after the Pakistani delegation raised the Kashmir issue and described the situation in the Valley as “grave”.

India also hit out at Turkey and said the country had “trampled upon” its own civil society. Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had raised the situation in Kashmir and called upon India to resolve the dispute as per the UNSC Resolutions.

Benefit of the NewsIndia- Pakistan issue

Ghana first country to receive COVAX vaccines #GS2 #IR

Ghana received the world’s first delivery of coronavirus vaccines from the United Nations-backed COVAX initiative— the long-awaited start for a program that has thus far fallen short of hopes that it would ensure shots were given quickly to the world’s most vulnerable people.

600,000 doses

The arrival of 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the West African country marks the beginning of the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history, according to the World Health Organization and UNICEF. 

It is a linchpin of efforts to bring the pandemic to an end and has been hailed as the first time the world has delivered a highly sought-after vaccine to poor countries during an ongoing outbreak.

However, the initiative has been hampered by the severely limited global supply of doses and logistical problems. Although it aims to deliver 2 billion shots this year, it currently has agreements only for several hundred million shots.

Benefit of the NewsCOVAX vaccine

Cabinet approves PLI plan for pharmaceuticals, IT hardware #GS3 #Economy

The Union Cabinet approved the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme for the pharmaceuticals and IT hardware sectors, entailing an outlay of Rs. 15,000 crore and Rs. 7,350 crore, respectively.

The PLI scheme for pharmaceuticals, for nine years till 2028-29, will benefit domestic manufacturers, help create employment and is expected to contribute to the availability of a wider range of affordable medicines for consumers. The scheme is expected to bring in investment of Rs. 15,000 crore in the pharmaceutical sector. The scheme is expected to promote the production of high-value products in the country and increase the value addition in exports.

‘20,000 direct jobs’

Total incremental sales of Rs. 2,94,000 crore and total incremental exports of Rs. 1,96,000 crore are estimated during six years from 2022-23 to 2027-28, adding that the growth in the sector is expected to add 20,000 direct and 80,000 indirect jobs for both skilled and unskilled personnel.

The scheme also aims to create global champions from India that have the potential to grow in size and scale using cutting edge technology and thereby penetrate global value chains.

The Cabinet also approved the PLI Scheme for IT hardware such as laptops, tablets, all-in-one PCs and servers. The scheme, under which an incentive will be given on net incremental sales of goods manufactured in India for four years, will benefit five ‘major global players’ and ten domestic ‘champions’ in IT hardware.

This is an important segment to promote manufacturing under AtmaNirbhar Bharat as there is huge import reliance for these items at present… It will enhance the development of the electronics ecosystem in the country. The Centre said the scheme could generate more than 1,80,000 jobs (direct and indirect) over four years.

‘Monetise or modernise’ is Modi’s mantra for govt. assets #GS3 #Economy

Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged foreign investors to tap investment opportunities thrown up by the government’s decision to privatise most public sector entities and monetise ‘unutilised and underutilised assets’ such as airports that have an estimated investment potential of Rs. 2.5 lakh crore.

The government’s mantra is ‘Monetise or Modernise’, the PM said, stressing that the funds raised from the exercise will help empower citizens by building homes for the poor and ensuring clean water reaches all. 

Our policy goes beyond annual disinvestment targets, to a medium-term strategic approach. This will help create new investment opportunities for industry in every sector. These are valuable assets, have served the country well, and have many future possibilities too. We have often seen, when management changes, fortunes change.

Government officials in charge of PSUs are often scared of taking decisions and there is a tendency to maintain status quo. The private sector can not only bring capital but also introduce global best practices and quality manpower and modernise enterprises.