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06 April Current Affairs

Nobel Laureate to Spread Awareness of Covid-19

In News:

Recently, the West Bengal government roped in Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee to spread awareness of COVID-19.

Abhijit Banerjee along with his wife economist Esther Duflo have agreed to help the West Bengal government.

Key Points:

Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo along with Michael Kremer were awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics “for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.”

The experiment-based approach of the three laureates has transformed development economics and turned it into a “flourishing field of research”.

The three adopted an evidence-based approach to apply theory to real-life situations using randomised trials and assessing the outcomes.

The approach is derived from the concept of clinical trials in the pharmaceuticals industry.

The effort was to understand the impact of interventions to achieve desirable outcomes.

Example : The experiment that Mr. Banerjee and Ms. Duflo carried out in Rajasthan some years ago would explain the concept better.

Despite immunisation being free, women were not bringing in their children for the vaccination shot.

The two economists decided to give a bag of pulses free to women who brought their babies for vaccination. Word soon spread and the rate of immunisation shot up in the region.

One of their studies also resulted in benefiting 5 million children in India through programmes of remedial tutoring in schools.

IIT-B Designs UV Sanitiser

In News:

Recently, the Industrial Design Centre (IDC) of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay has developed a portable UltraViolet (UV) sanitiser.

It can sterilise wallets, purses and other small items that are passed on from hand to hand.

Key Points:

The UV sanitiser has been made using stainless steel kitchen containers and aluminium mesh and is in the proof-of-concept stage right now.

It’s design is based on a study published in a journal PubMed, by the US National Library of Medicine.

The study demonstrates how ultraviolet C Light can inactivate Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus, Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever (CCHF) Virus and Nipah Virus.

Objects might be carriers of the viruses and sanitising gel cannot be used on every object humans come in contact with like papers, files, currency notes and phones.

Impact of Covid-19 on Global Economy

In News:

Recently, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has observed that the economic uncertainty sparked by the Covid-19 will likely cost the global economy $1 trillion in 2020.

The observation is based on the World Economic Situation and Prospects 2020 released by UNCTAD.

Key Observations:

A slowdown in the global economy to under 2% for this year is envisaged which will probably cost in the order of $1 trillion.

Worst possible scenario: If the world economy grew at only 0.5% which would involve a $2 trillion hit to gross domestic product (GDP).

Best case scenario: With moderate declines in private consumption, investment and exports and offsetting increases in government spending, global growth would fall to 1.2% in 2020.

Global financial market is fluctuating due to the supply-chain interruptions from China and oil price uncertainty among major producers.

European economies had already been performing extremely badly towards the end of 2019.

Europe is almost certain to go into recession over the coming months.

German economy is in a fragile state.

Italian economy and other parts of the European periphery are also facing very serious stresses right now.

Many parts of the Latin American region are also vulnerable.

Argentina in particular will be struggling as a consequence of the knock-on effects of this pandemic.

The least developed countries whose economies are driven by the sale of raw materials will also face hard consequences.

Heavily-indebted developing countries, particularly commodity exporters, face a particular threat due to the weaker export returns linked to a stronger US dollar.

The likelihood of a stronger dollar as investors seek safe-havens for their money and the almost certain rise in commodity prices as the global economy slows down, means that commodity exporters are particularly vulnerable.

Demand for MGNREGA Work Increased

In News:

The demand for work by households under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) programme surged to a nine-year high in 2019-20.

Key Points:

According to the MGNREGA official portal, 5.47 crore households sought MGNREGA works, the highest since 2010-11, when the number was 5.5 crore.

More individuals too worked under MGNREGA in 2019-20, with 7.86 crore employed at various sites across the country. This is the highest since 2012-13, when 7.97 crore individuals worked under this programme.

The disruption caused by the coronavirus lockdown, however, may impact the final figure of the person days generated in March 2020.

Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005:

The Act aims at enhancing the livelihood security of people in rural areas by guaranteeing hundred days of wage employment in a financial year to a rural household whose  adult members (at least 18 years of age) volunteer to do unskilled work.

The central government bears the full cost of unskilled labour, and 75% of the cost of material (the rest is borne by the states).

It is a demand-driven, social security and labour law that aims to enforce the ‘right to work’.

The Ministry of Rural Development (MRD), Government of India in association with state governments, monitors the implementation of the scheme.

Agriculture and allied activities constitute more than 65% of the works taken up under the programme.

Social inclusion, gender parity, social security and equitable growth are the founding pillars of MGNREGA.

Agasthyavanam Biological Park

In News:

The Forest Department is procuring forest produce collected by the tribespeople of the Agasthyavanam Biological Park (ABP) and surrounding forest ranges to be sold to commercial establishments and various collectives to deal with the lockdown necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

About Agasthyavanam Biological Park:

Established in 1997, Agasthyavanam Biological Park is a wildlife sanctuary in Kerala.

The park is located near Thiruvananthapuram/Trivandrum, the capital city of Kerala.

It is contiguous to Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary and Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary.

The park has been named after the Agasthyamalai Agasthyakoodam Peak, which can be seen at a distance from the park.

Agasthyavanam Biological Park is spread over an area of 23 sq. km., of which 17.5 sq. km. of the park has been dedicated for natural regeneration to develop into a dense forest. The rest area of the park is left for systematic conservation programs.

The Park has endemic medicinal plants and rich biodiversity.

Rise in Violence Against Women

In News:

The National Commission for Women (NCW) has recorded a more than twofold rise in gender-based violence.

It has been argued that the national lockdown has left many people jobless, uncertain over salaries, in forced isolation and in stressed households which have resulted in a steep rise in violence against women.

Key Points:

  1. a) Data Analysis:

Total complaints- Rose from 116 in the first week of March to 257 in the final week of March.

Rape or attempt to rape- Rose sharply from 2 to 13.

Domestic violence- Increased from 30 to 69 over the same comparative period.

Police apathy towards women- Almost threefold increase as the police are busy enforcing the lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Right to live with dignity (Article 21)- Rose to 77 from 35. Such cases could pertain to discrimination on the basis of gender, class or caste or all three of them combined.

These cases might be a fragment of the actual number as many women will not be able to reach out due to various reasons.

  1. b) Possible Reasons :
  2. a) Privacy : Women are not be able to reach out because of restrictions on movement as well as a lack of privacy within homes. Women need privacy and certainty that they will not be discovered by their family but that becomes impossible in the presence of the entire house.
  3. b) Frustration among Males : There is a lot of anxiety in people’s minds about their jobs, salaries and livelihood. Women become easy targets for men for venting out their anger in patriarchal societies.
  4. c) Lockdown : It has restricted the movement and closed women’s avenues to escape violence such as by relocating to their natal homes or contacting the local police.

There is evidence that in situations of crisis or calamity there is an increase in violence against women.

Suggestions:

The police do not seem the first port of call for victims of domestic violence and, therefore, alternative arrangements should be put in place.

The government should ensure resources to help women in distress, and put health services to women and abortion in the list of essential services.

Inspiration can be taken from France which announced to contribute €1 million to organisations that fight domestic abuse as well as set up assistance points at supermarkets and pharmacies.

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