03 APRIL 2021
Daily Current Affairs based on ‘The Hindu’ newspaper as per the syllabus of UPSC Civil Services Examination (Prelims and Mains) compiled by Mrs. Bilquees Khatri.
|1.||GS II: POLITY – ELECTIONS||4 poll personnel suspended in Assam for ‘lift’ in BJP vehicle|
|2.||GS II: SOCIAL – HEALTH||India records 89,019 fresh cases, highest in 6 months|
|3.||GS II : BILATERAL – INDIA – ASIA||India wants total disengagement|
|4.||GS II: SOCIAL – HEALTH||Disquiet over policy for rare diseases|
|5.||GS II: SOCIAL – HEALTH||Maternal deaths rose during pandemic: study|
|6.||GS II: INTERNATIONAL – ASIA||U.S., Iran agree to indirect nuclear talks|
|7.||GS II: INTERNATIONAL – EUROPE||Biden vows support to Kiev after Russian buildup|
|8.||GS II: INTERNATIONAL – ASIA||Myanmar junta shuts down Internet|
|9.||GS III: ENVIRONMENT – POLLUTION||Emission rules: coal-fired units get 3 more years|
GS III: POLITY – ELECTIONS
4 poll personnel suspended in Assam for ‘lift’ in BJP vehicle
- The Election Commission has suspended four polling personnel, including a presiding officer and an armed escort officer, besides orderinga re-poll at a booth in southern Assam’s Ratabari Assembly constituency, after electronic voting machines (EVMs) were found in a vehicle linked to a BJP candidate contesting the adjoining Patharkandi seat.
- Both constituencies are in Karimganj district.
- Officials said the polling personnel were unaware they had — after their car broke down near Nilambazar, 20 km short of district headquarters Karimganj — taken a lift in a vehicle registered in the name of Madhumita Paul, the wife of Patharkandi BJP candidate Krishnendu Paul.
- The team was returning from 149-Indira MV School under the Ratabari constituency, about 70 km away.
- The seals of the EVMs were found intact, but the EC decided to conduct a re-poll at the polling station concerned.
- The panel also sought a report from the special general observer, who found armed escort officer Luhit Gohain guilty of leaving the stranded polling party behind and not ensuring its safe arrival at the destination.
GS II: SOCIAL – HEALTH
India records 89,019 fresh cases, highest in 6 months
- India recorded the highest single-day rise in coronavirus cases in six months with 89,019 new infections in a span of 24 hours, taking the COVID-19 tally of cases to 1,23,91,129, according to the State Health Departments and Ministries on Friday.
- The single-day rise in cases is the highest recorded since September 8, 2020, while the death toll increased to 1,64,141 with 713 new fatalities, the highest since December 3, data updated at 11.45 p.m. showed.
- As many as 89,855 new infections were recorded in a span of 24 hours on September 8, while 541 daily deaths were registered on December 3. The number of people who have recuperated from the disease surged to 1,15,67,060. The case fatality rate stood at 1.33%, the data stated.
- India’s COVID-19 tally had crossed the 20-lakh mark on August 7, 30 lakh on August 23, 40 lakh on September 5 and 50 lakh on September 16. It went past 60 lakh on September 28, 70 lakh on October 11, 80 lakh on October 29, 90 lakh on November 20 and surpassed the one crore-mark on December 19.
GS II: BILATERAL – INDIA – ASIA
India wants total disengagement
- The remaining points of tension along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh should be resolved “quickly”, said an official of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).
- Addressing the weekly press briefing, official spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said “prolongation” of differences in the remaining points of friction was not helpful for restoration of peace and tranquillity along the LAC.
- Following months of tension on the LAC, Indian and Chinese Senior Commanders had managed to disengage on the north and south banks of the Pangong Tso.
- However, the Chinese forces are yet to disengage from Gogra, Hot Springs, Depsang and Demchok.
- “We therefore hope that the Chinese side will work with us to ensure that disengagement in the remaining areas is completed at the earliest. This would allow both sides to consider de-escalation of forces in eastern Ladakh as that alone will lead to the restoration of peace and tranquillity and provide conditions for progress of our bilateral relationship,” said the official spokesperson.
GS II: SOCIAL – HEALTH
Disquiet over policy for rare diseases
- Caregivers to patients with ‘rare diseases’ and affiliated organisations are dissatisfied with the National Policy for Rare Diseases, 2021 announced recently.
- Though the document specifies increasing the government support for treating patients with a ‘rare disease’— from ₹15 lakh to ₹20 lakh — caregivers say this doesn’t reflect actual costs of treatment.
- “The new policy offers no support to patients awaiting treatment since the earlier National Policy for Treatment of Rare Diseases 2017 was kept in abeyance.
- In the absence of any funding support, close to 130 patients are left with no option but to wait for the inevitable. Several patientshave already lost their lives in the interim period.
- Unlike conditions under Group 1 and Group 2, patients with Group 3 disorders require sustainable treatment support,” said Manjit Singh, National President, Lysosomal Storage Disorders Support Society.
- “It is alarming that the Union government has left patients with Group 3 rare diseases to fend for themselves. The new policy has absolutely no consideration for Group 3 patients, who require lifelong treatment support,” said Prasanna Shirol, co-founder and executive director, Organisation for Rare Diseases India, an umbrella organisation.
GS II: SOCIAL – HEALTH
Maternal deaths rose during pandemic: study
- The failure of the health system to cope with COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an increase in maternal deaths and stillbirths, according to a study published in The Lancet Global Health journal.
- Overall, there was a 28% increase in the odds of stillbirth, and the risk of mothers dying during pregnancy or childbirth increased by about one-third.
- There was also a rise in maternal depression. COVID-19 impact on pregnancy outcomes was disproportionately high on poorer countries, according to the study published on March 31.
- The report is an analysis of 40 studies across 17 countries including Brazil, Mexico, the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Denmark, Netherlands, Italy, India, China and Nepal.
- The study attributes the worsening trend to the failure of the “inefficiency of the healthcare system and their inability to cope with the pandemic” instead of strict lockdown measures. This resulted in reduced access to care.
- Indian context
- In the Indian context, an analysis of HMIS data by Population Foundation of India shows that during the months of national lockdown last year between April and June, compared to the same period in 2019, there was a 27% drop in pregnant women receiving four or more ante-natal check-ups, a 28% decline in institutional deliveries and 22% decline in prenatal services.
- The authors recommend that personnel for maternity services not be redeployed for other critical and medical care during the pandemic and in response to future health system shocks.
GS II: INTERNATIONAL – ASIA
U.S., Iran agree to indirect nuclear talks
- The U.S. and Iran said that they would begin negotiations through intermediaries next week to try to get both countries back into an accord limiting Iran’s nuclear programme, nearly three years after President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the deal.
- The announcement marked the first major progress in efforts to return both countries to the 2015 accord, which bound Iran to restrictions on its nuclear programmes in return for relief from U.S. and international sanctions.
- President Joe Biden came into office saying that getting back into the accord was a priority.
- But Iran and the U.S. have disagreed over Iran’s demands that sanctions be lifted first, and the stalemate threatened to become an early foreign policy setback for the Biden administration.
- Trump pulled the U.S. out of the accord in 2018, opting for a “maximum pressure” campaign of stepped-up U.S. sanctions and other tough actions.
- Iran responded by intensifying its enrichment of uranium and building of centrifuges, while maintaining its insistence that its nuclear development was for civilian and not military purposes.
- Iran’s moves increased pressure on major world powers over the Trump administration’s sanctions and raised tensions among U.S. allies and strategic partners in West Asia.
- Agreement on the start of indirect talks came after the EU helped broker a virtual meeting of officials from Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and Iran, which have remained in the accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
- Primary issue
- The U.S., like Iran, said it did not anticipate direct talks between the U.S. and Iran now. Mr. Price said the U.S. remains open to that idea, however.
- In a tweet, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said the aim of the Vienna session would be to “rapidly finalize sanction-lifting & nuclear measures for choreographed removal of all sanctions, followed by Iran ceasing remedial measures.”
- Iranian state television quoted Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s nuclear negotiator at the virtual meeting, as saying during Friday’s discussions that any “return by the U.S. to the nuclear deal does not require any negotiation and the path is quite clear”.
- “The U.S. can return to the deal and stop breaching the law in the same way it withdrew from the deal and imposed illegal sanctions on Iran,” Mr. Araghchi was quoted as as saying.
- Russia’s Ambassador to international organisations in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, said “the impression is that we are on the right track, but the way ahead will not be easy and will require intensive efforts. The stakeholders seem to be ready for that”.
GS II: INTERNATIONAL – EUROPE
Biden vows support to Kiev after Russian buildup
- S. President Joe Biden affirmed his “unwavering support” for Ukraine in a call to President Volodymyr Zelensky after Kiev accused Moscow of building up military forces on its border.
- It also came as tensions between the U.S. and Russia have hit rock bottom after Mr. Biden last month infuriated Moscow by agreeing with a description of his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin as a “killer”.
- Tensions raised
- Weeks of renewed frontline clashes have shredded a ceasefire and raised fears of an escalation of the simmering conflict in eastern Ukraine.
- Speaking to reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia would be forced to respond if the U.S. sent troops.
- He declined to specify which measures would be adopted, while insisting that Russia was not making moves to threaten Ukraine. “Russia is not threatening anyone, it has never threatened anyone,” he said.
- Russia said its armed forces would hold military exercises close to Ukraine’s border to practise defence against attack drones.
- More than 50 battalion combat teams comprising 15,000 people will take part in those , the military told reporters.
- Kiev has been battling pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions since 2014, following Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula after an
GS II: INTERNATIONAL – ASIA
Myanmar junta shuts down Internet
- Opponents of military rule in Myanmar marched and laid bouquets of flowers while trying to find alternative ways to organise their campaign of dissent after the authorities cut off most users from the Internet.
- Protests have taken place almost daily since the military overthrew the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1.
- Hundreds of civilians have been killed in a crackdown by security forces that has drawn international condemnation.
- Security forces opened fire at a rally near Myanmar’s second city Mandalay, wounding four people, two critically, according to three domestic media organisations.
- The authorities, who had already shut down mobile data in a bid to stifle the opposition to the ruling junta, ordered Internet providers from Friday to cut wireless broadband, depriving most customers of access.
- In response, pro-democracy groups shared radio frequencies, offline apps that work without a data connection, and tips for using SMS messages as an alternative to data services.
GS III: ENVIRONMENT – POLLUTION
Emission rules: coal-fired units get 3 more years
- The government has pushed back deadlines for coal-fired power plants to adopt new emission norms by up to three years, and allowed utilities that miss the new target to continue operating after paying a penalty, according to a notice.
- India had initially set a 2017 deadline for thermal power plants to install Flue Gas Desulphurization (FGD) units that cut emissions of sulphur dioxides.
- But that was postponed to varying deadlines for different regions, ending in 2022.
- The new order dated April 1 from the environment Ministry said plants near populous regions and the capital New Delhi will have to comply by 2022, while utilities in less polluting areas have up to 2025 to comply or retire units.
- Operators of coal-fired utilities have long been lobbying for dilution of the pollution standards, citing high compliance costs.
- A task force will be constituted by the Central Pollution Control Board to categorise plants in three categories “on the basis of their location to comply with the emission norms”, the Ministry said in its order.
- In case of non-compliance, a penalty of up to ₹0.20 will be levied for every unit of electricity produced.