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31 March Current Affairs

Covid-19 Lockdown & Improved Air Quality

In News:

The nationwide lockdown, to prevent COVID-19, has led to minimal air pollution in over 90 cities including Delhi.

Environmentalists have welcomed the reduction in pollution and have urged the government to treat it as a wake-up call and stop the development at the cost of the environment.

Key Points:

During the lockdown, the government has asked the people to avoid unnecessary travel which has significantly reduced the traffic movement.

Other factors which have contributed to the improved air quality are shutting down of industries and construction sites and rains.

According to the centre-run System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), the measures against COVID-19 have led to a drop in:

  1. a) PM2.5:

It is an atmospheric Particulate Matter of diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres, which is around 3% of the diameter of a human hair.

It causes respiratory problems and also reduces visibility. It is an endocrine disruptor that can affect insulin secretion and insulin sensitivity thus contributing to diabetes.

  1. b) Nitrogen Oxide (NOx):

NOx pollution is mainly caused due to a high motor vehicle traffic and can increase the risk of respiratory conditions.

Generally in March, pollution is in the moderate category in the Air Quality Index while currently, it is in the satisfactory or good category.

Under the good category, pollution is considered to be at the lowest and the air is believed to be the healthiest to breathe.

According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) data:

Air quality in the National Capital Territory of Delhi is presently in the good category.

Kanpur, which has high pollution levels normally, is in the satisfactory category.

92 other cities with CPCB monitoring centres have recorded minimal air pollution, with the air quality ranging between good and satisfactory.


In News:

The government has set up the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM-CARES Fund) to deal with any kind of emergency or distress situation like posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This Fund has been set up owing to a number of requests made by the people to support the government in the wake of the COVID-19 emergency.

Key Points:

  1. a) About the Fund

The Fund is a public charitable trust with the Prime Minister as its Chairman. Other Members include Defence Minister, Home Minister and Finance Minister.

The Fund enables micro-donations as a result of which a large number of people will be able to contribute with the smallest of denominations.

The Fund will strengthen disaster management capacities and encourage research on protecting citizens.

  1. b) Contribution to PM – CARES Fund will Qualify as CSR Expenditure

The Ministry of Corporate Affairs has clarified that contributions by companies towards the PM-CARES Fund will count towards mandatory Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) expenditure.

Under the Companies Act, 2013, companies with a minimum net worth of Rs 500 crore or turnover of Rs 1,000 crore, or net profit of Rs 5 crore are required to spend at least 2% of their average profit for the previous three years on CSR activities every year.

The term “Corporate Social Responsibility” in general can be referred to as a corporate initiative to assess and take responsibility for the company’s effects on the environment and impact on social welfare.

  1. c) Existing Similar Fund: Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF)

This fund was instituted in 1948 by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, to assist displaced persons from Pakistan. The fund is currently used primarily to tackle natural calamities like floods, cyclones and earthquakes. The fund is also used to help with medical treatment like kidney transplantation, cancer treatment and acid attack.

The fund consists entirely of public contributions and does not get any budgetary support. It accepts voluntary contributions from Individuals, Organizations, Trusts, Companies and Institutions etc.

The corpus of the fund is also invested in various forms with scheduled commercial banks and other agencies. Disbursements are made with the approval of the Prime Minister.

The fund is recognized as a Trust under the Income Tax Act and the same is managed by the Prime Minister or multiple delegates for national causes.

Contributions towards PMNRF are notified for 100% deduction from taxable income under section 80(G) of the Income Tax Act, 1961.

Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts Cancels IHGF

In News:

The Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts (EPCH) has cancelled the 49th edition of the Indian Handicrafts & Gifts (IHGF) Delhi Fair Spring-2020 in view of present status of COVID-19 in India and abroad.

Indian Handicrafts & Gifts Fair (IHGF) is Asia’s largest gifts & handicrafts trade fair.

Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts:

The Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts (EPCH) was established under Companies Act in the year 1986-87.

It is a non-profit organisation, with an object to promote, support, protect, maintain and increase the export of handicrafts.

It is an apex body of handicrafts exporters for promotion of exports of Handicrafts from the country and projecting India’s image abroad as a reliable supplier of high quality of handicrafts.

The Council has created necessary infrastructure as well as marketing and information facilities, which are availed both by the members exporters and importers.

Himalayan Ibex

In News:

A  recent study by scientists of the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) has proved that Himalayan Ibex is a distinct species from the Siberian Ibex.

Key Points:

The study was funded through the National Mission on Himalayan Studies.

The National Mission on Himalayan Studies is implemented by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

It targets to provide much needed focus, through holistic understanding of system’s components and their linkages, in addressing the key issues relating to conservation and sustainable management of natural resources in Indian Himalayan Region (IHR).

The study was based on genetic analysis conducted with the inclusion of the sequences available from all across the distribution ranges of Siberian Ibex.

The study revealed that Siberian Ibex was estimated to have diverged from Alpine Ibex during the Pleistocene epoch (2.4 million years ago) rather than during the Miocene-Pliocene boundary (6.6 million years ago).

  1. A) Siberian Ibex (Capra sibirica):

Siberian Ibex is a species of wild goat.

It is distributed in diverse habitats, ranging from cold deserts, rocky outcrops, steep terrain, high-land flats and mountain ridges to low mountains and foothills.

From Mongolia, its distribution extends towards Altai, Hangai, Gobi-Altai, the Hurukh mountain ranges as well as Sayan Mountains near Russia and scattered populations in the small mountains of Trans-Altai Gobi.

In Asia, Ibex is distributed in the Montane habitats, ranging in elevations from 500 m to 6,700 m in countries like India, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Southern Siberia and China.

Its IUCN status is least concerned.

  1. B) Himalayan Ibex (Capra sibirica hemalayanus)

Earlier the Himalayan Ibex was regarded as a subspecies of the Siberian Ibex (Capra sibirica)

The Himalyan Ibex is distributed mainly in the trans-Himalayan ranges of the Union Territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh.

Business Immunity Platform

In News:

Invest India has launched The Invest India Business Immunity Platform.

About Business Immunity Platform:

The platform is designed as a comprehensive resource to help businesses and investors get real-time updates on India’s active response to COVID-19 (Coronavirus).

This dynamic and constantly updating platform keeps a regular track on developments with respect to the virus, provides latest information on various central and state government initiatives, gives access to special provisions, and answers and resolves queries through emails and on WhatsApp.

It is the active platform for business issue redressal, operating 24/7, with a team of dedicated sector experts and responding to queries at the earliest.

What is Invest India?

Invest India is the National Investment Promotion and Facilitation Agency of India, set up as a non-profit venture under the aegis of Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India.

It facilitates and empowers all investors under the ‘Make in India’ initiative to establish, operate and expand their businesses in India.

Operationalized in early 2010, Invest India is set up as a joint venture company between the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) (now renamed as Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT)), Ministry of Commerce & Industry (35% equity), Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) (51% equity), and State Governments of India (0.5% each).