Operation Namaste: Indian Army
The Indian Army has code-named its anti-COVID-19 campaign as Operation Namaste to help the government in its fight against the pandemic.
Soldiers are advised to follow the lockdown, wherever they do not have any operational role, and stay fit. They are assured that their families will be well taken care of.
Leave extension of those on leave as well as curtailment of leave to bare minimum have been imposed.
Segregation facilities have been set up to observe troops already back from leave from various states.
So far six quarantine facilities at Manesar, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Chennai, Hindan and Mumbai have been established where 1,463 people evacuated from coronavirus-affected countries have been accommodated.
The forces are setting up more such facilities at Kolkata, Visakhapatnam, Kochi, Dundigal, Bengaluru, Kanpur, Jaisalmer, Jorhat and Gorakhpur which can be ready within 72 hours, if needed.
28 Armed Forces hospitals have been earmarked as COVID hospitals:
These hospitals will include armed forces patients as well as civilian patients transferred from state health authorities.
Five hospitals from the Army, Navy and the Air Force are conducting coronavirus tests using the RT-PCR methodology and more hospitals will be equipped soon with the resources.
62 Cantonment Boards have been instructed to identify beds in hospitals and health centres and guesthouses for any eventuality.
COVID-19 and ‘Force Majeure’
In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, Indian Railways has decided that the period from 22.03.2020 to 14.04.2020 shall be treated under “Force Majeure”.
A Force Majeure (FM) means extraordinary events or circumstances beyond human control such as an event described as an Act of God (like a natural calamity).
During this period no demurrage, wharfage, stacking, stabling, detention and ground usage charge shall be leviable.
Zonal Railways have been advised to coordinate with State Government authorities to ensure logistics support in order to keep up the essential goods transportation.
Virtual G20 Leaders’ Summit
Recently, an extraordinary Virtual G20 Leaders’ Summit has been convened to discuss the challenges posed by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and to forge a global coordinated response.
The video-conference of leaders of the world’s top twenty economies was hosted by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
The G20 countries have voluntarily committed to inject more than $5 trillion into the global economy and contribute to the World Health Organisation (WHO) led COVID-19 solidarity response fund.
A joint statement has been issued which calls for a transparent, robust, coordinated, large-scale and science-based global response in the spirit of solidarity to come over the interconnectedness and vulnerabilities of the countries highlighted by the pandemic.
The member countries have agreed to share timely and transparent information, exchange epidemiological and clinical data, share materials necessary for research and development and strengthen health systems globally by supporting the full implementation of the WHO International Health Regulations.
The leaders agreed to have more interactions before the Riyadh Summit which will take place in November 2020.
Recently, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed a committee to assess the amount of damage caused to the environment due to the dump sites (legacy waste) in Delhi.
The committee comprises representatives from the Central Pollution Control Board, National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) and IIT Delhi.
Legacy wastes are the wastes that have been collected and kept for years at some barren land or a place dedicated for Landfill (an area to dump solid waste).
This waste can be roughly grouped into four categories:
1) Contained and/or stored waste(contained or stored waste are wastes in tanks, canisters, and stainless steel bins).
2) Buried waste.
3) Contaminated soil and groundwater
4) Contaminated building materials and structures.
Biomining method has been proposed by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for the effective disposal of legacy wastes.
Environmental Impact of Legacy Waste:
MACS 4028 Wheat Variety
Recently, scientists from Agharkar Research Institute (ARI), Pune, have developed a biofortified durum wheat variety MACS 4028.
ARI Pune is an autonomous institute under the Department of Science & Technology, Government of India.
Biofortified durum MACS 4028 wheat variety shows high protein content of about 14.7%, better nutritional quality having zinc 40.3 ppm, and iron content of 40.3 ppm and 46.1 ppm respectively, good milling quality and overall acceptability.
ppm stands for parts per million.
MACS 4028, is a semi-dwarf variety, which matures in 102 days and has shown the superior and stable yielding ability of 19.3 quintals per hectare.
It is resistant to stem rust, leaf rust, foliar aphids, root aphids, and brown wheat mite.
The MACS 4028 variety is also included by the Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) programme for United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to alleviate malnutrition in a sustainable way and can boost the Vision 2022 “Kuposhan Mukt Bharat”, the National Nutrition Strategy.
The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has also tagged this variety under the Biofortified category during the year 2019.
Biofortification is a process to increase the bioavailability and the concentration of nutrients in crops through both conventional plant breeding and genetic engineering.
Durum is a kind of hard wheat grown in arid regions that is typically ground into semolina and used to make pasta.
Durum wheat, or Triticum turgidum, is the second most cultivated species of wheat after bread wheat, which is also called common wheat or Triticum aestivum.
COVID-19 Economic Relief Package
The Union Finance Minister has announced Rs 1.70 lakh crore relief package under the newly framed Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana for the poor to help them fight the battle against CoronaVirus (COVID-19).
As part of the lockdown to stem the spread of the deadly virus, the government has stopped public transport, airlines and construction work, bringing to a halt most economic activities and leaving millions of workers in the informal economy without a livelihood.
The central government’s package comes a week after Kerala first announced a Rs 20,000-crore support for its people. Many states including Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Telangana and Rajasthan followed suit.
The Centre would provide Rs. 50 lakh medical insurance cover for the next three months for about 22 lakh health workers in government hospitals fighting the spread of the virus at personal risk.
The health workers include ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) workers, medical sanitary workers in government hospitals, paramedics, nurses and doctors.
Each person who is covered under the National Food Security Act would get an additional five kg wheat or rice for free, in addition to the 5 kg of subsidised foodgrain already provided through the Public Distribution System (PDS).
One kg of pulse a household would also be provided for free, according to regional preferences. This is expected to benefit about 80 crore people.
About 3 crore poor pensioners above 60 years, widows and disabled people would be given ₹1000 in two instalments.
The 20 crore women holding Jan Dhan Yojana accounts would get ₹500 a month.
The 8.3 crore poor households, which received cooking gas connections under the Ujjwala scheme, would get free gas cylinders.
Wages are being hiked under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act scheme, from ₹182 to ₹202 a day.
The Centre is directing the States to use the ₹31,000 crore held by Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Boards to provide support to the 3.5 crore registered workers.
The States can also use the money available under District Mineral Funds for medical screening, testing and treatment.
The first instalment of ₹2000 due to them under the PM-KISAN income support scheme will be paid promptly in April, the first month of the financial year.
For small companies with 100 employees or less, of whom 90% earn less than ₹15,000 a month, the Centre will bear the cost of both employer and employee contribution (a total of 24%) to the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) for the next three months. This will benefit 80 lakh employees, and incentivise 4 lakh establishments.
Collateral free loans provided for women self-help groups under the National Rural Livelihood Mission are being doubled to ₹20 lakh, potentially benefiting seven crore households.
PwDs and COVID-19
The Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD) under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has issued “Comprehensive Disability Inclusive Guidelines” to States and Union territories.
This is for the protection and safety of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan) in light of Pandemic COVID19.
Highlights from the Guidelines :-
1) the rights of persons with disabilities.
2) the risks associated with additional problems for persons having specific impairments.
It is sought that caregivers should be allowed to reach PwDs by exempting them from restrictions during lockdown or providing passes in a simplified manner on priority.