22 December, 2020 - Daily Current Affairs Analysis & MCQs - The Daily News Simplified from The Hindu

  • House Panel moots law to regulate private hospitals Social Issues
  • Humans are still core to digital India Governance
  • Virus Variant N501Y Science & Technology
  • Suspension of IBC extended till March 2021 Economy
  • The Greatness of Srinivasa Ramanujan Science & Technology
  • Question for the Day

Prelims Quiz

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    UPSC Current Affairs: A holistic Public Health Act is needed |Page 01

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains Paper 2: Polity & Governance

    Sub Theme: Issues related to Health |UPSC

    Context: Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs headed by Congress leader Anand Sharma in its Report stated the need for having a comprehensive Public Health Act with suitable legal provisions to keep checks and controls over private hospitals in times of a pandemic and to curb black marketing of medicines. The Standing Committee submitted its Report to the Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu.

    Suggestion of the Committee

    • Emergency Use Authorisation for COVID Vaccine - The parliamentary committee report noted that the CDSCO has given no emergency use authorisation in the past, and suggested that all necessary and mandatory requirements must be duly fulfilled and all trial phases completed. So, any vaccine against COVID-19 should be granted emergency use authorisation only after proper consideration and conducting its trials on a sufficient sample size.
    • More Funds for Govt. Hospitals - Since government hospitals bear the brunt in such emergency situations, hence more funds should be allocated to public hospitals to strengthen the public health Infrastructure so that they can equip themselves appropriately to handle such pandemics in the future.
    • Provide Cheap Medicines at Subsidised Rate to Vulnerable Sections in times of Pandemic - The committee recommends that good quality and affordable medicines be provided to everyone, especially at a cheaper or subsidised rate to the marginalised sections of the society especially at the time of Pandemic like COVID-19  
    • Hold Awareness Campaigns - The Committee suggested that the government should be proactive by holding awareness campaigns on cheaper and effective re-purposed medicines to prevent panic buying of expensive drugs by the people.  
    • Make COVID treatment cashless for all people having insurance coverage. 
    • Form a separate wing in NDMA - National Disaster Management Authority which will specialize in handling pandemics like COVID-19 in the future.
    • Address problems faced by farmers, non-corporates and non-farm and small micro enterprises in getting medical insurance coverage.
    • Ensure states deliver dry rations or allowances to children deprived of mid-day meals due to pandemic.  

    Reasons given by the Panel

    • Selling of beds by private hospital to COVID patients at exorbitant rates.
    • The law will support the government in keeping checks and controls over private hospitals.
    • The Act will also keep a check on black marketing of medicines and on product standardisation.
    • Government can have regulatory oversight over private hospitals refusing to accept insurance claims.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs: Humans are still core to Digital India |Page 07

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II – Polity & Governance

    Sub Theme: Development | Government schemes  | UPSC 

    Context: This article highlights the importance of cadre of individuals (referred as intermediaries) employed to ensured last mile delivery of government schemes and programmes especially for digitally excluded citizens. The article further emphasises that government should incorporate these intermediaries even though it is scaling up is e-governance initiative.

    Benefits of Intermediaries

    Such cadre of individuals (intermediaries) helps the vulnerable sections of the population such as poor, women, elderly, caste and gender minorities etc. in ensuring that benefits of government schemes reaches to their doorsteps.  Thus, these intermediaries provide additional support in

    • Overcoming barriers to enjoy benefits of government services
    • Solving queries of sections of population regarding various schemes of the government at grass root level.
    • Addressing complaints/grievances by directing them to the correct authorities.
    • Making citizens aware about their own rights and services.
    • Building trust between the government and citizens

    Offline Intermediaries

    Intermediaries are crucial offline architectures that enable the state to do its work better. Offline intermediaries can be both political and apolitical, individuals or collectives with varying motivations to do this work. Apolitical social workers and community leaders do their work as service. Partisan political individuals see their work as constituency service to secure vote bases. Community-based organisations and NGOs see their work as allied to their core work.

    Suggestions

    • Strengthening the intermediaries can unlock the capacity of the state to serve citizens – and will strengthen implementation of government schemes.
    • Strengthening the role and functions of intermediaries will help in realizing governance outcomes.
    • Intermediaries must be considered by the government as natural extension of governance model.
    • There is a need to formalise intermediaries to ensure better delivery of government services.
    • Role of intermediaries is even more important during transitioning towards digitization of governance.
    • Government must work with intermediaries to
    • Raise citizen’s awareness
    • Build intermediaries skills and capabilities
    • Establish governance framework by incorporating suitable feedbacks.

              

    UPSC Current Affairs: Virus variant | Page– 06

    UPSC Syllabus:| Mains GS Paper 3: Science & Technology

    Sub Theme: COVID 19 New Variant| UPSC

    Virus variant

    Last week, the new SARS-CoV-2 variant was revealed to be the reason behind the rapid surge in Covid-19 cases in South and East England. It is being referred to as VUI (Variant Under Investigation) 202012/01.

    The cause of concern

    The COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium, which identified the variant on September 20, said the variant has been “growing in frequency” since November 2020 and is “responsible for an increasing proportion of SARS-CoV-2 cases in the UK”.

    The variant has 23 mutations in all - in the spike protein as well as in other genomic regions. one of these mutations— N501Y — in an area of the spike protein that binds to a key protein in the human cell, the ACE2 receptor –  has been found to increase the binding affinity, making the variant more transmissible.

    • Based on modelling, it has been found to be 70% more transmissible but this is yet to be confirmed in lab experiments.

    However, there is no evidence as yet that it can cause any change in disease severity or increase the risk of reinfection.

    Will it impact vaccination?

    Though the N501Y and other mutations are found in the spike protein region of the virus, it is unlikely that the mutations would make the two COVID vaccines that have secured emergency use approval and the ones in final stages of testing less effective. This is because –

    • vaccines produce antibodies against many regions of the spike protein, and
    • there is also the T-cell immunity that would come into play to clear the virus.

    However, as the virus accumulates more mutations, there is a possibility that vaccines might require minor tweaking.

    Possible cause of mutation

    SARS-CoV-2 being an RNA virus tends to have a higher mutation rate, but the presence of 23 mutations strongly suggests that the variant has not emerged through gradual accumulation of mutations. According to COG-UK, it is probably due to prolonged infection in a single patient, potentially with reduced immunocompetence.

    The extent of spread

    While a few cases caused by the new variant have been reported, the extent of international spread is unknown.

    Since far fewer SARS-CoV-2 genomes are sequenced at regular intervals in India, it is unclear if the variant is already present here.

    Measures to be adopted

    The emergence of the new variant underlines the compulsion to undertake surveillance following vaccination to track vaccine effectiveness and to look for the appearance of vaccine-escape mutants.

    The emergence of the new variant with increased transmissibility is one more reason why non-pharmaceutical interventions (like use of mask, social distancing)  should be strictly adhered to.

    Prelims practice questions

    Consider the following statements mutation in viruses –

    RNA viruses tends to have a higher mutation rate.

    Mutation of SARS-CoV-2 is happening only in the spike protein.

    Which of the above statement(s) is/are correct?

    1. 1 only
    2. 2 only
    3. Both 1 and 2
    4. None of the above

    Answer – a)

    Solution

    RNA viruses tends to have a higher mutation rate than what would be optimal for the organism because higher mutation rates are, in part, a by-products of selection for faster genomic replication.

    Mutation of SARS-CoV-2 is happening in the spike protein as well as in other genomic regions.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs: Suspension of IBC till March| Page - 01

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains GS paper 3: Economy

    Sub Theme: Insolvency & Bankruptcy Code  | UPSC

    Context:

    The supply side disruption caused by the COVID-19 has made it difficult for the MSMEs to repay their loans. There is a genuine apprehension that such MSMEs may default on the loan repayment and hence fall under the resolution process as provided under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy code (IBC).

    Hence, as part of Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Package, the Government decided to suspend the fresh initiation of insolvency proceedings for a period of 6 months (From March 2020 to September 2020). Now, the government has decided to further extend the suspension of IBC for another 6 months up to March 31, 2021.

    This means that no application for the insolvency resolution would be initiated for any default which takes place between March 2020 to March 2021.

    Earlier, there were multiple overlapping laws and adjudicating forums dealing with financial failure and insolvency of companies and individuals in India. This led to undue delays in the recovery of the NPAs by the Banks. Hence, the IBC Code was introduced to consolidate all the existing laws related to Insolvency and Bankruptcy in India and to simplify the process of insolvency resolution.

    Institutional Mechanism:

    Adjudicating authorities: The proceedings of the resolution process would be adjudicated by the National Companies Law Tribunal (NCLT), for companies; and the Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT), for individuals.

    Committee of Creditors (CoC) : During the insolvency resolution process, a committee consisting of lenders would  be constituted for taking decisions (by voting) on the resolution process. The CoC may either decide to restructure the debtor’s debt by preparing a resolution plan or liquidate the debtor’s assets. However, such a decision has to be approved by at least 66% of the votes in the committee of creditors. (Earlier, the voting threshold for the approval was 75%, but it was reduced to 66% through the IBC amendment act, 2019)

    Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board: The Board would regulate insolvency professionals, insolvency professional agencies and information utilities set up under the Code. The Board would consist of representatives of Reserve Bank of India, and the Ministries of Finance, Corporate Affairs and Law.

    Procedure to resolve Insolvency and Bankruptcy:

    The Code proposes two independent stages: Insolvency Resolution Process, during which lenders assess whether the debtor's business is viable to continue and the options for its rescue and revival; and Liquidation (Sale of Assets), if the insolvency resolution process fails.

    Insolvency Resolution Process (IRP):  When a default occurs, the resolution process may be initiated either by the debtor or creditor before the adjudicating authority. The NCLT appoints an insolvency professional to administer the IRP. The Resolution Professional identifies the financial creditors and constitutes a Committee of Creditors (CoC). The CoC would prepare the resolution plan for the restructuring the loans of the defaulted borrower which may be in the form of extending the maturity period of the loan, reducing the rate of interest on loans etc. However, such a resolution plan has to be approved by at least 66% of the votes in the committee of creditors.

    Liquidation (Sale of Assets): If the Committee of Creditors fail to come up with a resolution plan within the time limit of 330 days, then the proceeds from the sale of the debtor’s assets are distributed in the following order of precedence: i) insolvency resolution costs, including the remuneration to the insolvency professional, ii) secured creditors, whose loans are backed by collateral, dues to workers, other employees, iii) unsecured creditors, iv) dues to government, v) priority shareholders and vi) equity shareholders.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs: The greatness of Srinivasa Ramanujan | Page - 07

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains GS paper 3: Science & Technology

    Sub Theme: S Ramanujan | UPSC

    • National Mathematics Day is celebrated every year in India on December 22 to mark the birth anniversary of Indian Mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan and to recognise his achievements. In 2012, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had declared December 22 as National Mathematics Day.
    • The main objective behind celebrating the day is to raise awareness among people about the importance of mathematics for the development of humanity.
    • Ramanujan was born in 1887 in Erode, Tamil Nadu (then Madras Presidency). He had no formal pure mathematical education but that didn't stop him from making strides in fields of mathematics like number theory, mathematical analysis, continued fractions and infinite series.
    • The Man Who Knew Infinity (2015) was a biopic on the mathematician.
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