Current Affairs 3rd February 2021

Robust stance led to stability at border: Rajnath #GS3 #Defence

India’s robust stance, immediate and calibrated response and its soldiers’ unrelenting spirit on the border led to the stabilisation of the situation, and showed the resolve to defend its sovereignty and integrity, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said as the stand-off with China along the disputed boundary in eastern Ladakh continues.

The Indian Ocean Region [IOR] Defence Ministers’ conclave would reinforce the relevance of the region and its continued importance for stakeholders from the perspective of trade, security and freedom or navigation.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Singh inaugurated a second assembly line for the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), which would increase the production rate from eight aircraft a year to 16.

83 LCA jets

Last month, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) approved the manufacture of 83 LCA jets. This includes 73 LCA Tejas Mk-1A fighter aircraft and 10 LCA Tejas Mk-1 trainer aircraft at a cost of Rs. 45,696 crore, along with design and development of infrastructure sanctions worth Rs. 1,202 crore.

COVID-19 restrictions

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this edition of Aero India has been restricted to business days only. On the third day of the show, there is a Bandhan Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signing ceremony, during which over 200 MoUs and agreements are expected to be signed.

In line with the effort to push defence exports, there is major focus at Aero India to showcase indigenous defence platforms. In line with that, the Indian Pavilion is set to showcase a range of indigenous helicopters manufactured by HAL.

Benefit of the News– Aero India 2021

https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/robust-stance-led-to-stability-at-border-rajnath/article33735495.ece

U.K. variant mutation causes concern #GS3 #SnT

The U.K. has reported a key mutation in the coronavirus variant called B.1.1.7, or the ‘U.K. variant, that studies say makes it more infectious, better equipped to thwart immune systems and slightly reduce the potency of vaccines.

The mutation, called E484K, has been reported previously in South Africa in a coronavirus lineage called B.1.135. Public Health England, a government body, said in an analysis made public that in an analysis of 2,14,159 cases, 11 had shown the new mutation. This mutation has, however, not shown to be linked to increased severity of disease.

India last month banned flights from the UK. but has partially recommenced operations. So far, there have been 138 confirmed cases of Indians, with recent travel history to the U.K., with the B.1.1.7 variant. There have been neither confirmed reports of B.1.135 — also called the South African variant — in India, nor the mutation E484K.

Vaccine companies Pfizer and Moderna had undertaken laboratory tests to see if their vaccines are effective against the new mutated strains. Both claimed that their vaccines were effective against the U.K. strain

Novavax, another vaccine candidate in the U.S., reported that its vaccine had only 60% efficacy in its South Africa trial compared to 89% in the U.K.

However, in [the] case of M/s Bharat Biotech International Limited, during consultation, the Subject Expert Committee [SEC] noted that the Inactivated Whole Virion Corona Virus Vaccine has potential to target mutated corona virus strains.

Bharat Biotech results

Last week, Bharat Biotech reported results of a lab test that showed its vaccine appeared to be working against the U.K. strain. No tests were done to check its potency against the South Africa variant. Since December, India has been scanning genomes of coronavirus isolated from people with international travel history and announced plans to do so in 5% of the population of those positive but there is no information public on whether these variants have been found in the larger community.

Benefit of the News– About UK virus strain 

https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/uk-variant-mutation-causes-concern/article33735538.ece

Sputnik V vaccine shows 91.6% efficacy #GS3 #SnT

An interim analysis of a Phase-3 trial of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19 shows the vaccine is safe and has 91.6% efficacy.

The 91.6% efficacy was seen 21 days after the first dose. Although the study was not designed to assess the efficacy of a single dose regimen, the researchers observed a possible partial protective effect of a single dose.

Storage at 2-8°C, a favourable temperature profile for global distribution, has been approved by Russia’s Health Ministry. The Phase-3 trial between September 7 and November 24, 2020 in about 20,000 participants carried out in Moscow at 25 sites found the vaccine was safe.

The time-point for the interim analysis was when 78 COVID-19 cases were reported in participants after receiving the second dose.

Out of about 20,000 participants, about 15,000 received the vaccine while over 4,900 got the placebo. The primary outcome was the proportion of participants with COVID-19 from day 21 after receiving the first dose. On day 21 after the first dose, 16 participants in the vaccine arm and 62 in the placebo group were confirmed to have COVID-19. This translates into 91.6% vaccine efficacy.

The protection was seen in all age groups, including those older than 60 years.

A different approach

The Sputnik V vaccine uses an approach slightly different from the one used by Oxford-AstraZeneca. While AstraZeneca uses the same adenovirus vector to ferry the genetic material into cells, the Sputnik V vaccine uses two different adenovirus vectors – adenovirus 26 (Ad26) for the first dose and adenovirus 5 (Ad5) for the second dose – to carry the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Using two varying serotypes of adenovirus,is intended to overcome any pre-existing adenovirus immunity in the population.

Benefit of the News– About Sputnik V vaccine

https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/sputnik-v-vaccine-shows-916-efficacy/article33735544.ece

ECT fiasco: Indian envoy meets Gotabaya, Mahinda #GS2 #IR

In a flurry of meetings a day after Sri Lanka backed out of an agreement with India and Japan to develop the East Container Terminal (ECT) at the Colombo Port, Indian High Commissioner Gopal Baglay met President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena.

The thrust of the Indian envoy’s message to the Sri Lankan leadership, sources said, was that Colombo must adhere to its commitments in the tripartite agreement of May 2019, to jointly develop the strategic terminal with the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) holding a 51% stake and India and Japan holding 49% together.

The Adani Group from India, along with Japanese companies, was to invest in the project expected to cost up to $700 million, as per official estimates.

Mixed signals

The Indian side, it is learnt, conveyed that the signals emanating from Sri Lanka should boost the confidence of potential investors. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has pledged to draw foreign direct investments to the country, rather than take loans.

The three high-level meetings follow the Sri Lankan government’s cabinet decision, in the wake of raging protests by port workers’ unions opposed to foreign investment in the facility, that the operation of the ECT would be “100%” with the SLPA, while the West Container Terminal would be offered to India instead, on a 35-year arrangement for development.

This is the second instance of Sri Lanka reversing an agreement on a large infrastructure project involving Japan, after the government scrapped the $1.5 billion, Japan-funded Light Rail Transit system last year.

The development has sparked alarm in India and Japan, according to diplomatic sources, who said Sri Lanka had neither conveyed its decision, nor offered the alternative proposal to either of the partners.

Asked how Sri Lanka would mobilise funds to develop the SLPA, especially after the economic impact of the pandemic, Udaya Gammanpila, a Cabinet spokesman, on Tuesday said, “SLPA is going to use its own funds, as well as borrow money from local commercial banks.”

On whether Sri Lanka had discussed the option of developing the West Container Terminal with India, he said, “This is a sensitive diplomatic issue. Sri Lanka is always keen to maintain cordial diplomatic ties with India. Sri Lanka has commenced discussions with the Government of India, but I don’t think this is the stage to disclose those details.”

While the ECT, which is in its first stage and awaits upgrade, has a 450-metre-long quay wall and water depth of 18 metres, equipping it to accommodate large vessels, the West Container Terminal (WCT) exists merely as a proposal, with no infrastructure yet.

Benefit of the News– India- Sri Lanka relations along with ECT issue

https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/ect-fiasco-indian-envoy-meets-gotabaya-mahinda/article33735541.ece

Jal Jeevan Mission to help revive urban waterbodies #GS2 #SocialIssues

The urban water supply mission announced in the Budget will include rejuvenation of waterbodies and 20% of supply from reused water.

Ministry said there was an estimated gap of 2.68 crore urban household tap connections that the Jal Jeevan Mission (Urban) (JJMU) would seek to bridge in all 4,378 statutory towns. The Mission would also aim to bridge the gap of 2.64 crore sewer connections in the 500 cities under the existing Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT).

The mission would include rejuvenation of water bodies to boost the sustainable freshwater supply and creation of green spaces.

JJM(U) will promote circular economy of water through development of city water balance plan for each city focusing on recycle/reuse of treated sewage, rejuvenation of water bodies and water conservation.

The Ministry said 20% of the water demand would be met with reused water. The total expenditure on the mission would be Rs. 2.87 lakh crore over five years.

The Ministry said the MetroNeo and MetroLite technologies, which are cheaper than conventional Metros, mentioned in the Budget were already being considered.

“Some of the Tier-2 cities like Gorakhpur, Allahabad, Jammu, Srinagar, Rajkot, Baroda, Dehradun, Coimbatore, Bhiwadi-Daruhera etc. are making proposals under MetroLite/MetroNeo and Nashik has already sent a proposal for MetroNeo, which is under consideration,” the statement said.

Apart from the Budget announcements, the Ministry said there had been an increase in the funds to urban local bodies as per the 15th Finance Commission’s report. There had been a 78% increase, from Rs. 87,143 crore in the 14th Finance Commission period to Rs. 1,55,628 crore in the 15th Finance Commission’s period.

Benefit of the News– About Jal Jeevan Mission; MetroNeo & MetroLite technologies 

https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/jal-jeevan-mission-to-help-revive-urban-waterbodies/article33735528.ece

Granted Rs 8,000 crore, govt looks at 8 new cities #GS2 #Governance

The 15th Finance Commission has recommended a grant of Rs 8,000 crore to incubate eight new cities, according to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA).

Finance Commission has given us a new window and new thinking. Earlier we had stopped thinking about new cities. (But) the way the nation is growing, unless we have planned cities, it will all be outgrowth cities. And outgrowth is an inefficient use of the city.

He said the 2011 Census had categorised 31.2 per cent of India as urban, but only 26 per cent of that as statutory towns. This gap of 5 per cent of urbanised India – populated by roughly 6 crore people – is living in either census towns or in outgrowth towns.

Census towns are towns of over 5,000 people, with a density of more than 400 per sq km, and more than 75 per cent of non-farm, male labourers. These towns are still under the panchayat systems, and not municipalities. Outgrowth towns are in the periphery of big cities, also governed by panchayats.

Increased overall funding for ULBs

For cities with more than a million people, roughly Rs 38,000 crore will be distributed based on performance of improvements in air quality, drinking water, sanitation, and solid waste management. For cities with less than 1 million people, roughly Rs 83,000 crore will be distributed in a similar manner.

The Finance Commission has also allotted Rs 450 crore to a “shared municipal services” fund where the ministry will help smaller urban bodies with their back-end work such as database maintenance. The ministry made 86 clusters of the smallest urban local bodies (ULBs) which they can help service from afar.

The Commission’s overall funds for ULB saw a 78 per cent increase over last year – from Rs 87,000 crore to Rs 1.6 lakh crore. Of this, a little over Rs 1.2 lakh crore has been allocated directly to ULBs.

Cities will receive funding only when their annual accounts are put in public domain. Also, if a state’s GDP increases, then the city’s property tax should increase by a similar proportion. 

In the budget for MoHUA, the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna (PMAY), to provide housing for all, was allocated Rs 8,000 crore in 2020-21, but spent Rs 21,000 crore. Continuing the same trend, the allocation in this year’s Budget is Rs 8,000 crore, leading industry experts to deduce that the mission will again have to resort to extra-budgetary resources to finance the bulk of the mission.

Benefit of the NewsAbout Urban planning

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/granted-rs-8000-crore-govt-looks-at-8-new-cities-7172091/

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