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8th May Current Affairs

Scientists see flaws in SUTRA Model

In News:

Questions are being raised by many scientists on whether a government-backed model, called SUTRA, to forecast the rise and ebb of the COVID-19 pandemic, may have had an outsized role in creating the perception that a catastrophic second wave was unlikely in India.

What is SUTRA model?

SUTRA (Susceptible, Undetected, Tested (positive), and Removed Approach) first came into public attention when one of its expert members announced in October that India was “past its peak”.

The model uses three main parameters to predict the course of the pandemic which are:

Beta: Also called contact rate, which measures how many people an infected person infects per day. It is related to the R0 value, which is the number of people an infected person spreads the virus to over the course of their infection.

Reach: It is a measure of the exposure level of the population to the pandemic.

Epsilon: It is the ratio of detected and undetected cases.

Why questions are being raised now?

Incorrect prediction: The model said a “second wave” would peak by the third week of April and stay around 1 lakh cases.

Too many parameters: The SUTRA model was problematic as it relied on too many parameters, and recalibrated those parameters whenever its predictions “broke down”.

Omission of the importance of the behaviour of the virus.

The fact that some people were bigger transmitters of the virus than others (say a barber or a receptionist more than someone who worked from home).

A lack of accounting for social or geographic heterogeneity.

Not stratifying the population by age as it didn’t account for contacts between different age groups also undermined its validity.

RBI measures to protect small and medium businesses from pandemic impact

In News:

The Reserve Bank of India has announced measures to protect small and medium businesses and individual borrowers from the adverse impact of the intense second wave of COVID-19 buffeting the country.

Measures announced:

The RBI has decided to conduct special three-year long-term repo operations (SLTRO) of ₹10,000 crore at the repo rate for Small Finance Banks. The SFBs would be able to deploy these funds for fresh lending of up to ₹10 lakh per borrower.

SFBs are now being permitted to reckon fresh lending to smaller MFIs (with asset size of up to ₹500 crore) for onlending to individual borrowers as priority sector lending.

To enable the State governments to better manage their fiscal situation in terms of their cash flows and market borrowings, maximum number of days of overdraft (OD) in a quarter is being increased from 36 to 50 days and the number of consecutive days of OD from 14 to 21 days.

Who is eligible?

Those with aggregate exposure of up to ₹25 crore, who had not availed restructuring under any of the earlier restructuring frameworks (including under last year’s resolution framework), and whose loans were classified as ‘standard’ as on March 31, 2021, were eligible for restructuring under the proposed framework.

In respect of individual borrowers and small businesses who had already availed restructuring under Resolution Framework 1.0, lenders have been permitted to use this window to modify such plans to the extent of increasing the period of moratorium and/or extending the residual tenor up to a total of two years.

In respect of small businesses and MSMEs restructured earlier, lending institutions have been permitted as a one-time measure, to review the working capital sanctioned limits, based on a reassessment of the working capital cycle and margins.

Latest findings about Venus

In News:

Scientists have obtained new data about Venus by bouncing radio waves off Venus.

Details:

The researchers transmitted radio waves toward Venus 21 times from 2006 to 2020 from NASA’s Goldstone Antenna in the Mojave Desert of California and studied the radio echo, which provided information on certain planetary traits.

Latest findings:

The study measured the tilt of the Venusian axis and size of the planet’s core.

A single Venusian rotation takes 243.0226 Earth days. That means a day lasts longer than a year on Venus, which makes a complete orbit around the sun in 225 Earth days.

The Venusian planetary core has a diameter of about 4,360 miles (7,000 km), comparable to Earth’s core.

The study calculated the Venusian tilt at about 2.64 degrees. Earth’s is about 23.5 degrees.

About Venus:

Venus, the second planet from the sun, is similar in structure but slightly smaller than Earth.

Above its foreboding landscape is a thick and toxic atmosphere that consists primarily of carbon dioxide, with clouds of sulfuric acid droplets.

With a runaway greenhouse effect, its surface temperatures reach 880 degrees Fahrenheit (471 degrees Celsius), hot enough to melt lead.

Venus is one of just two planets that rotate from east to west. Only Venus and Uranus have this “backwards” rotation.

In another quirk, its day-night cycle – the time between sunrises as opposed to the length of a single axial spin – takes 117 Earth days because Venus rotates in the direction opposite of its orbital path around the sun.

Supreme Court declines EC plea to restrain media reports

In News:

The Supreme court has declined a plea made by the Election Commission of India to restrain the media from reporting oral remarks made by a Division Bench of the Madras High court.

What’s the issue?

The HC judges had said that poll body officials should be charged with “murder” for allowing rallies and mass gatherings during the Tamil Nadu Assembly elections. The judges had remarked that the EC was solely responsible for the COVID surge.

Observations made by the Supreme Court:

Real-time reportage of court proceedings, including the oral exchanges in courtrooms between judges and lawyers, is part of the right to freedom of speech.

With the advent of technology, we are seeing reporting proliferate through social media forums which provide real-time updates to a much wider audience. This is an extension of the freedom of speech and expression that the media possesses. This constitutes a virtual extension of the open court.

Such live reporting of court proceedings is a cause of celebration rather than apprehension.

Except in cases of child sexual abuse and marital issues, the phenomenon of free press should extend to court proceedings.

The court said oral observations made during the course of a hearing do not bind the parties and do not form a part of the judgment. An exchange of views was intrinsic to the applicability of mind and the process of judging. .

On the nature of the remarks made by the Madras HC, the apex court said “a degree of caution and circumspection would have allayed the problems in the present case.

Need of the hour:

We must emphasise the need for judges to exercise caution in off-the-cuff remarks in open court, which may be susceptible to misinterpretation. Language, both on the Bench and in judgments, must comport with judicial propriety. Language is an important instrument of a judicial process which is sensitive to constitutional values.