Daily Current Affairs and MCQs for UPSC - December 08, 2020 (The Hindu, Economic Times, PIB)

Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine

Focus: GS2.

Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.


Context

  • Amid the Coronavirus-blighted year, the world is hoping for a vaccine.
  • Now, with the Pfizer and BioNTech's announcement of concluding the phase 3 study of the COVID-19 vaccine on which they have been collaborating, the fulfilment seems to be in sight.

Background

  • On 18 November 2020, two pharmaceutical firms, Pfizer and BioNTech reported that the vaccine on which they were collaborating is more than 90% effective in preventing symptomatic cases of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • This is an astounding result for a first-generation vaccine as many haven't hoped for efficacy above 70%.

About BNT162b2 vaccine

  • The Pfizer-BioNTech or BNT162b2 vaccine depends on messenger RNA or mRNA technology. 
  • In this, the genetic material from the virus is injected into the body which in turn uses this material to create a protein normally observed on the surface of COVID-19 virus particles, stimulating the immune system. 
  • The vaccine is being tested on an ethnically diverse group of 43,000 individuals and is currently under trial. 
  • As per Pfizer, no serious safety concerns have arisen in the trials underway, although further efficacy data are being collected.
  • The first primary objective analysis is based on 170 cases of COVID-19, as specified in the study protocol, of which 162 cases of COVID-19 were observed in the placebo group versus 8 cases in the BNT162b2 group.
  • Of the 10 people who had severe COVID-19, one received the vaccine. 
  • The analysis also noted that the vaccine efficacy was consistent across all age groups, gender, race and ethnicity. 
  • The efficacy in individuals above 65 years of age was more than 94%. 

Source: AIR News.

ARTPARK

Focus: GS3.

Topic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.


Context

An AI & Robotics Technologies Park (ARTPARK) set up in Bengaluru will promote technology innovations in AI (Artificial Intelligence) & Robotics leading to societal impact by executing ambitious mission mode R&D projects in healthcare, education, mobility, infrastructure, agriculture, retail and cyber-security focusing on problems unique to India.

Background

  • ARTPARK, is a unique not-for-profit foundation established by Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru with support from AI Foundry in a public-private model.
  • ARTPARK will develop AI & Robotics facilities to support technology innovations as well as capacity building through advanced skills training of students and professionals in these areas.

Highlights

  • Some of these facilities will be key enablers for whole new sets of technologies, products and services.
  • It will develop DataSetu – that will enable confidentiality and privacy-preserving framework to share data and run analytics spurring the data-sharing ecosystem and create a data marketplace, boosting AI applications and solutions.
  • One such service will be BhashaSetu – that will enable real-time Indic language translation, both of speech to speech and speech to text. 
  • ARTPARK, in collaboration with AI foundry, will run a novel ARTPARK Venture Studio that will mentor technopreneurs who will take the outputs of the mission mode projects to launch new startups.

Source: PIB.

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Lucknow raises Rs 200 cr on BSE muni bond listing; more UP cities to follow

Focus: GS3.

Topic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.


Context

  • Bonds issued by the Lucknow Municipal Corporation (LMC) listed on the BSE , raising Rs 200 crore for Uttar Pradesh's capital.
  • It’s the ninth city in the country to raise capital through municipal bonds.

Background

  • UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who rang the ceremonial bell to mark the listing, said Ghaziabad will be the next to issue a municipal issue and it will be followed by Pragyaraj, Varanasi, Agra and Kanpur.
  • LMC’s bond issuance, launched on November 13, offered coupon of 8.5 per cent and had tenure of 10 years.
  • The issuance had garnered 4.5 times subscription.

Highlights

  • The actual cost of borrowing for LMC works out to about 7.25 per cent after considering Rs 26 crore incentive from the Centre for raising the bond.
  • The LMC bond were rated AA Stable and AA (CE) stable by Brickwork Ratings.
  • Until now, a cumulative amount of Rs 3,600 crore has been raised via muni bonds in the country.
  • The money raised using such bonds is typically used for infra projects such as roads, water and housing.
  • In 2015, market regulator Sebi had issued the framework for raising capital by way of muni bonds.
  • Among the key eligibility criteria for issuing these bonds is that the local body shouldn’t have negative net worth in any of the three preceding financial years and shouldn’t have defaulted on payments in the last one year.

Source: The Hindu.

 Indian Peacock Softshell Turtle rescued

Focus: GS3.

Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.


Context

  • Indian peacock softshell turtle, a turtle of a vulnerable species was rescued from a fish market in Assam’s Silchar.
  • The Indian peacock softshell turtle [Nilssonia hurum] is a species of turtle found in South Asia.

Background

  • IUCN Red list status is Vulnerable species.
  • Schedule I species in the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

Highlights

  • This species is confined to India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
  • In India, it is widespread in the northern and central parts of the Indian subcontinent.
  • These are found in rivers, streams, lakes and ponds with mud or sand bottoms.
  • Major Threats: (1) Heavily exploited for its meat and calipee; (2) Reduction of fish stock, due to overfishing, pollution, increase in river traffic, and sand-mining, among others.

Source: PIB.

Honey, the sweetener may be sugar syrup

Focus: GS3.

Topic: Food processing and related industries in India- scope and significance, location, upstream and downstream requirements, supply chain management.


Context

  • Honey marketed by prominent Indian brands failed a key test of purity, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has claimed, citing an investigation it conducted. 
  • Current regulations specify around 18 parameters that honey must comply with for producers to label it ‘pure honey’.

Background

  • Current regulations specify around 18 parameters that honey must comply with for producers to label it ‘pure honey’.
  • CSE food researchers selected 13 brands of raw and processed honey, including Dabur, Patanjali, Baidyanath and Zandu, and subjected them to tests that are required under national food regulatory laws to be labelled as honey.

Highlights

  • Most brands passed muster but when subjected to one test, called Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR, that can ascertain the composition of a product at the molecular level) that was done at a lab in Germany, only three brands (spanning six samples) passed: Saffola, Markfed Sohna and Nature’s Nectar (one sample of two). 
  • There were often multiple samples tested for each brand.
  • The NMR test is not required by Indian law for honey that is being marketed locally but is needed for export.

Source: The Hindu.

Interfaith marriage: Adult's right to marry a person of choice is fundamental right, says Karnataka HC

Focus: GS1.

Topic: Social empowerment.


Context

  • The Karnataka High Court has echoed similar observations made by the Delhi High Court and Allahabad High Court over a major individual's choice of marrying a person irrespective of caste or religion.
  • A division bench of Justices S Sujata and Sachin Shankar Magadum HC ruled that an adult marrying the person of his/her choice is a fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution.

Background

  • The HC made this observation as it disposed of a habeas corpus petition filed by Wajeed Khan. Khan had sought the release of his lover Ramya from confinement.
  • The bench said that "it is well settled that a right of any major individual to marry the person of his/her choice is fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution of India and the said liberty to the personal relationships of two individuals cannot be encroached by anybody irrespective of caste or religion".

Highlights

  • Khan, a software professional from Bengaluru, had approached the court last month.
  • He had urged the court to issue directions to produce Ramya, also a software engineer and colleague.
  • The Chandra Layout police produced Ramya before the court on November 27.
  • Her parents -- Gangadhar and Girija, and Wajeed Khan's month Sreelakshmi were also present in the court.
  • The girl told the court that she was staying at NGO Mahila Dakshatha Samithi.
  • She had also filed a complaint with the Janodaya Santwana Kendra wherein she alleged that her parents were infringing on her right to liberty by opposing her marriage.
  • While Khan's mother had no objection to the marriage, Ramya's parents had not consented.
  • The HC observed that Ramya is a capable of taking a decision regarding her life.
  • It then directed the Mahila Sakshata Samithi to release her fortwith.
  • Last week, the Delhi High Court has ruled that an adult/major girl is "free to reside wherever and with whoever she wishes to reside".
  • The observations were made by the HCs at a time when several BJP-ruled states have advocated for a law against 'love jihad'.

Source: Indian Express.

India to surpass 350 mn 5G connections by 2026

Focus: GS3.                                

Topic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.


Context

India, which has the highest average monthly mobile data traffic per smartphone, is expected to surpass 350 million 5G subscriptions by 2026, accounting for 27% of all mobile subscriptions in the country, according to a report by Swedish telecom equipment maker Ericsson.

Background

As per the ‘The Ericsson Mobility Report 2020,’ four out of every ten mobile subscriptions in 2026 will be 5G globally with 5G subscriptions forecast to reach 3.5 billion.

Highlights

  • In the India region, LTE (long-term evolution technology) subscriptions are forecast to increase from 710 million in 2020 to 820 million in 2026” by which time 3G will be phased out.
  • In India, the reliance of people on mobile networks to stay connected as well as work from home during the pandemic has resulted in average traffic per smartphone user rising from 13.5 GB a month in 2019 to 15.7 GB in 2020, the highest globally.

Source: Indian Express.

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Test your Knowledge

  1. With respect to “Nisarg Gram”, consider the following statements:
  • It is an Autonomous Body under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
  • It is established in pune at the same premises where Gandhiji set up All India Nature Cure Foundation in year 1945.
  • It was subsequently taken over by the Central Government and structured into the present National Institute of Naturopathy.

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

       A. 1 and 2 only
       B. 2 and 3 only
       C. 1 and 3 only
       D. AOTA

Solution: B

  1. Which of the following police stations topped the list released by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) for the year 2020?

       A. Pakyong (East district, Sikkim)
       B. Nongpok Sekmai (Thoubal, Manipur)
       C. Malkangiri
       D. Siliguri

Solution: B

 

 

 

 

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