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27 April Current Affairs

Devanahalli Pomelo Trees

In News:

The Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) will plant 500 Devanahalli Pomelo trees as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The plantation drive is also part of the 50th anniversary of World Earth Day.

Devanahalli pomelo, a citrus variety, is almost on the brink of extinction.

Key Points:

Devanahalli Pomelo has a Geographical Indication (GI) tag. It is grown in Devanahalli taluk, Banglore (Karnataka) and is popularly known as chakota.

The Devanahalli pomelo has a unique, sweet taste, unlike other local varieties which have a bitter taste.

The establishment of the Kempegowda International Airport brought in different livelihood opportunities for people to change their practices and focus shifted away from its cultivation. The absence of an organised market for the fruit was another factor behind decline in the plantation of the variety.

BIAL owns and operates Kempegowda International Airport.

Pomelo is a parent of the grapefruit and is also known by its scientific name Citrus Maxima. The fruit is rich in Vitamin C.

While each pomelo tree grows 24 inches per season, it can live from 50-150 years and reach a height of 25 feet.

Each tree annually yields an average of 300 to 400 fruit. Each fruit, typically, weighs 2 to 2.5 kg and is identified by distinctive pink or red juicy carpels.

Commodity Markets Outlook: World Bank

In News:

According to the World Bank’s April 2020 Commodity Markets Outlook, Covid-19 is expected to bring most commodity prices down substantially in 2020.

However, it also says that the outlooks are “exceptionally uncertain” and depend on the severity and duration of the pandemic and when mitigation measures are taken.

Key Points:

  1. a) Worst Hit

Energy and metals commodities are the most affected by the sudden stop to economic activity and the serious global slowdown that is anticipated.

Commodities associated with transportation, including oil, have experienced the steepest declines.

  1. b) Agricultural prices are likely to stay broadly stable in 2020 because of relatively stable demand and all-time high levels of staple production and stock.

However, supply chain disruptions and government steps to restrict exports or stockpile commodities raise concerns that food security may be at risk in places.

  1. c) Gold prices were up 6.9% in the last quarter (January- March,2020) – its sixth consecutive quarterly rise.

The strong investor demand propped gold up despite weak jewelry demand in India and China.

  1. d) Oil Prices: These are expected to average at $35 per barrel in 2020.

The decline in crude oil prices has been exacerbated by uncertainty around production agreements among the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other oil producers.

Impact on Importers and Exporters: They are likely to see some long-term shifts in their markets due to the pandemic. These include

Increasing transport costs due to enhanced border checks and thus impact on supply chains.

Substituting for imports with domestic goods: Companies might prefer to source from closer by for instance.

Other Observations: Changing consumer behaviour, for instance, people may choose to work remotely, travel less, and this could impact permanent drops in demand for oil, favourably impacting the accounts for oil importers.

The reduction in emissions of the harmful gases caused by the restrictions may also increase public pressure for greener transport and lowered fossil fuel use.

Ambubachi Mela Cancelled

In News:

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the annual Ambubachi Mela in Assam will not be organised this year.

The fair is organised from 21st to 25th June, every year.

Key Points:

The festival marks the annual menstruation of the presiding Goddess in the Kamakhya Temple, Guwahati, Assam.

The temple’s sanctum sanctorum houses the yoni (female genital) symbolised by a rock.

Kamakhya is one of 51 shakti peethas or holy sites for the followers of the Shakti cult, each representing a body part of the Sati, Lord Shiva’s companion.

The temple is situated on the Nilachal Hills, whose northern face slopes down to the Brahmaputra river.

According to the legends, it was built by the demon king Narakasura but records are available only from 1565 when Koch king Naranarayana rebuilt the temple.

Importance:

  1. a) Cultural: The ritualistic fair celebrates the Goddess’ period due to which taboo associated with menstruation is less in Assam compared to other parts of India.

The attainment of womanhood of girls in Assam is celebrated with a ritual called Tuloni Biya, meaning small wedding.

  1. b) Social: The fair is also an occasion to promote menstrual hygiene among the visitors through the use of sanitary pads.
  2. c) Financial: Assam records a footfall of at least 5 lakh devotees during the fair mainly from West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand. Foreigners also visit which boost the state tourism and the revenues associated.

Antiviral Nano-coatings

In News:

Recently, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) has approved the use of antiviral nano-coatings on anti-Covid-19 masks.

Details:

These coatings have been approved for Triple Layer Medical masks and N-95 respirator, as a part of the Mission on Nano Science and Technology (MNST or commonly known as Nano Mission).

Key Points:

The antiviral nano-coating has been developed using N9 blue silver which will be modified to form nanocomplexes with Zinc (Zn, atomic number-30) compounds to achieve a synergistic effect. Subsequently, it will be applied as coatings on facemasks and other Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs).

Nano-coatings have 99.99% effectiveness and these can work on multiple levels at the same time like antiviral, bacterial and fungal and self-cleaning.

These can be applied to various surfaces such as glass, metal, stone, textiles and plastics by spraying or dipping.

N9 blue nanosilver is a highly potent antimicrobial agent and has been developed at SMITA Research Lab, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi.

Silver (Ag, atomic number-47) is known to have strong antimicrobial activity against bacteria, viruses and fungus.

In experiments, strains of bacteria and viruses have shown either resistance or sensitivity when exposed to silver which confirms silver resistance and toxicity in them.

After the evaluation of shelf life of the coatings and their efficacy under different conditions such as temperature, humidity and time, the masks and PPEs will be prepared and provided to the medical workers for field trials.

The use of highly effective antimicrobial nanoparticles on masks, PPEs, etc is a useful application providing an extra layer of protection for the high risk settings, such as for the medical workers.

Mission on Nano Science and Technology:

It was launched by the Government of India in May 2007 as an “umbrella capacity-building programme” to build upon the promotional activities in the highly promising and competitive area of Nano Science and Technology.

The DST is the nodal agency for its implementation.

Objectives:

1) Basic research promotion.

2) Infrastructure development.

3) Nano applications and technology development.

4) Human Resource development.

5) International collaborations.

Due to its efforts, India is amongst the top five nations in the world in terms of scientific publications in nano science and technology.

Industrial Relations Code Bill, 2019

In News:

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour has made suggestions to the Industrial Relations Code.

Details:

The code proposes to amalgamate The Trade Unions Act, 1926, The Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946, and The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.

Key suggestions made:

Centre should create a formal and conducive industrial relations system by strengthening the various provisions in the Code.

In case of natural calamities, payment of wages to the workers until the re-establishment of the industry may be unjustifiable. The law has to be reasonable, in such cases it is for the government to step in and extend a helping hand for the industries.

A separate and an exclusive chapter should be created for outlining the rights of both the employee and the employer containing the principles pertaining to the industrial relations based on the ILO conventions.

Union Labour Ministry should include scheme workers like Anganwadi, Asha, Mid-day Meal, etc, in the definition of worker on the ground that this is as per the existing provision for the formation of a Trade Union.

The Government should give a consolidated and merged definition of worker/employee so that supervisors, managers, etc. could find a place therein.

Need of the hour:

Governance of the industrial relations system is simply not about framing good laws but also designing adequate and effective mechanism for their efficient implementation. Therefore, it becomes imperative on the part of the Government to strive for creating a formal and conducive industrial relations system, by strengthening the various provisions in the Code, so as to do away with the ambiguities and uncertainties, which would result in aiding economic progress, employment generation and labour welfare.

Overview of the Bill:

  • Seeks to allow companies to hire workers on fixed-term contract of any duration.
  • Has retained the threshold on the worker count at 100 for prior government approval before retrenchment, but it has a provision for changing ‘such number of employees’ through notification.
  • Provides setting up of a two-member tribunal (in place of one member)wherein important cases will be adjudicated jointly and the rest by a single member, resulting speedier disposal of cases.
  • Has vested powers with the government officers for adjudication of disputes involving penalty as fines.
  • Introduces a feature of ‘recognition of negotiating union’ under which a trade union will be recognized as sole ‘negotiating union’ if it has the support of 75% or more of the workers on the rolls of an establishment.
  • Under the code, termination of service of a worker on completion of tenure in a fixed-term employment will not be considered as retrenchment.
  • Proposes setting up of a “re-skilling fund” for training of retrenched employees. The retrenched employee would be paid 15 days’ wages from the fund within 45 days of retrenchment.

Significance:

The Indian economy grew at 5% in the June quarter, a six-year low, while the country’s factory output shrank for the second straight month at 4.3% in September, recording its worst show since the present series was launched in April 2012.

The ease of compliance of labour laws will promote the setting up of more enterprises, thus catalysing the creation of employment opportunities in the country.

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