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22nd October Current Affairs

Why Covaxin is yet to win WHO’s emergency approval?

(GS-II: Issues related to health)

In News:

The World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) approval for WHO pre-qualification, or Emergency Use Listing (EUL) for Bharat Biotech International Ltd’s covid-19 vaccine is moving according to procedure and the Indian government’s haste in pushing through the process is only adding to speculation about the alleged delay.

What’s the issue?

The delay in India’s indigenous vaccine getting emergency use authorisation is because WHO has raised some more questions on Covaxin and the queries have been sent to Bharat Biotech for further clarification.

As per the World Health Organisation, it is waiting for an additional piece of information from the Hyderabad-based biotechnology company before it evaluates the vaccine.

Why WHO’s approval is necessary?

If Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin gets the approval, those inoculated with the vaccine can travel to countries that permit entry of fully vaccinated people. The company can also export it to countries that use vaccines approved by WHO.

About WHO’s Emergency Use List (EUL):

The WHO Emergency Use Listing Procedure (EUL) is a risk-based procedure for assessing and listing unlicensed vaccines, therapeutics and in vitro diagnostics with the ultimate aim of expediting the availability of these products to people affected by a public health emergency.

To be eligible, the following criteria must be met:

The disease for which the product is intended is serious or immediately life threatening, has the potential of causing an outbreak, epidemic or pandemic and it is reasonable to consider the product for an EUL assessment, e.g., there are no licensed products for the indication or for a critical subpopulation (e.g., children).

Existing products have not been successful in eradicating the disease or preventing outbreaks (in the case of vaccines and medicines).

The product is manufactured in compliance with current Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) in the case of medicines and vaccines and under a functional Quality Management System (QMS) in the case of IVDs.

The applicant undertakes to complete the development of the product (validation and verification of the product in the case of IVDs) and apply for WHO prequalification once the product is licensed.

BharatNet project

(GS-III: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation)

In News:

Tamil Nadu FibreNet Corp signs agreement for BharatNet project implementation.

Aim:

The project aims at providing 1 Gbps bandwidth connectivity to all Gram Panchayats.

About BharatNet:

BharatNet Project was originally launched in 2011 as the National Optical Fibre Network(NOFN) and renamed as Bharat-Net in 2015.

It seeks to provide connectivity to 2.5 lakh Gram Panchayats (GPs) through optical fibre.

It is a flagship mission implemented by Bharat Broadband Network Ltd. (BBNL).

The objective is to facilitate the delivery of e-governance, e-health, e-education, e-banking, Internet and other services to rural India.

The larger vision of the project is:

  • To establish a highly scalable network infrastructure accessible on a non-discriminatory basis.
  • To provide on demand, affordable broadband connectivity of 2 Mbps to 20 Mbps for all households and on demand capacity to all institutions.
  • To realise the vision of Digital India, in partnership with States and the private sector.

Implementation:

The project is a Centre-State collaborative project, with the States contributing free Rights of Way for establishing the Optical Fibre Network.

The entire project is being funded by Universal service Obligation Fund (USOF), which was set up for improving telecom services in rural and remote areas of the country.

India’s fossil fuel production exceeds Paris Agreement goals

(GS-III: Conservation related issues)

In News:

The United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) latest Production Gap Report has revealed that 15 of the top fossil fuel producing countries, including India, are not prepared to meet the requirements of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

Details:

Paris Agreement seeks to keep global warming “well below 2 degrees” above pre-industrial levels.

Highlights of the Production Gap Report:

Governments are in aggregate planning to produce 110 per cent more fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5°C, and 45 per cent more than would be consistent with limiting warming to 2°C, on a global level.

By 2040, this excess grows to 190% and 89%, respectively.

The 15 countries analysed as part of the report were responsible for 75 per cent of the world’s fossil fuel production in 2020.

They are Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Norway, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US).

What needs to be done?

In order for the world to meet the Paris Agreement goals, “global coal, oil, and gas production (and consumption) have to start declining immediately to be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C.”

India’s plans vs goals:

India is the seventh-largest producer of fossil fuels among the 15 countries.

As part of the Paris Agreement, India pledged a 33%–35% reduction in the “emissions intensity” of its economy by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.

However, as part of the Atmanirbhar Bharat campaign, the government pledged to become a self-reliant producer of coal and made a plan to invest Rs 500 billion worth of infrastructure for coal extraction.

Challenges ahead for India:

India doesn’t have a federal level policy on scaling down production of fossil fuels, or ensuring a just transition into renewable energy.

Why is there a need to limit the use of fossil fuels?

Global cost of air pollution from fossil fuels is high: It was around $2.9 trillion per year, or $8 billion per day, which was 3.3 per cent of the world’s GDP at the time.

India is estimated to bear a cost of $150 billion from air pollution caused by fossil fuels.

Overall Challenges ahead:

As of now, human activities have already caused global temperatures to rise by about 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels (1950-1900).

Currently, countries’ emissions targets are not in line with limiting global warming to under 1.5 degrees.

Need of the hour for India:

  • Reduce emphasis on domestic exploration.
  • Increase productivity of producing fields.
  • Increase strategic reserves.
  • Restructure and reorganize public sector petroleum companies.
  • Avoid siloed thinking.

UDAN scheme

(GS-III: Infrastructure- airways)

In News:

The Government of India has identified 21st October as UDAN Day, the day on which the scheme document was first released.

About UDAN scheme (Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik) Scheme:

The scheme is aimed at enhancing connectivity to remote and regional areas of the country and making air travel affordable.

It is a key component of Centre’s National Civil Aviation Policy led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and launched in June 2016.

Under the scheme, nearly half of the seats in Udan flights are offered at subsidised fares, and the participating carriers are provided a certain amount of viability gap funding (VGF) – an amount shared between the Centre and the concerned states.

The scheme will be jointly funded by the central government and state governments.

The scheme will run for 10 years and can be extended thereafter.

UDAN 4.0:

The 4th round of UDAN was launched in December 2019 with a special focus on North-Eastern Regions, Hilly States, and Islands.

The airports that had already been developed by Airports Authority of India (AAI) are given higher priority for the award of VGF (Viability Gap Funding) under the Scheme.

Under UDAN 4, the operation of helicopters and seaplanes is also been incorporated.