Daily Current Affairs | 15th May 2020

Major states staring at Rs 97,100 crore revenue loss in April

According to estimates from the India Ratings and Research (a credit rating agency), the Covid-19 lockdown has caused 21 major States to suffer a collective revenue loss of about Rs. 97,100 crore for the month of April.

  • The lockdown caused disruptions to production, supply-chains, trade and the total washout of activities in aviation, tourism, hotels and hospitality.
    • The disruption caused has taken place with such a speed and scale that even if the lockdown is lifted, economic activity is unlikely to normalise in near future.
  • Although, during the lockdown,nearly 40% of the economy was functional as economic activities defined as essentials were allowed to operate.
    • This means that despite the lockdown some amount of revenue did accrue to the states.But despite this, the states faced significant revenue loss in April.
  • The lockdown has a more paralyzing impact on the states,which have a high share of own revenue in the total revenue mix.
    • For example, for Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Telangana 65%-76% of their revenue comes from their own sources.
  • Both Union government and State governments are struggling due to the dried-up cash inflow.
    • But the problems of the States are more precarious because of the actual battle against the Covid-19 and the associated expenditure being incurred by them.
  • Under the current circumstance, there is a fair amount of uncertainty regarding the quantum and timings of the states’ receivables from the Centre. Their own sources of revenue have also fallen to abysmally low levels.
  • This is pushing states to adopt austerity measures and combine it with exploring new/more ways of generating revenues.
    • Austerity measures include action by a government to reduce the amount of money it spends.
      • The situation may improve somewhat in May 2020 due to the easing of some restrictions–
        • Allowing the liquor sale.
        • Raising the excise duty on liquor.
        • Some states have raised VAT on petrol and diesel.
  • Sources of State government revenue:
    • States’ Own Tax Revenue (SOTR),
    • Share in central taxes,
    • States’ Own Non-Tax Revenue (SONTR)
    • Grants from the Centre.
  • States’ own revenue mainly comes from seven heads–
    • State Goods and Services Tax (SGST),State Value Added Tax (VAT)- mostly on petroleum products, State excise-mostly on liquor, stamps and registration fees, vehicle tax, tax and duty on electricity, and own non-tax revenue.

India ‘test-beds’ Integrated Battle Groups for China, Pakistan border, says Army Chief General MM Naravane

Recently, the Army chief said that a comprehensive testing of the Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs) has concluded but its roll out has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

  • IBGs are brigade sized agile self-sufficient combat formations which can swiftly launch strikes against adversaries.
    • IBGs can be mobilised within 12-48 hoursbased on the location.
  • Each IBG would be organised on the basis of Threat, Terrain and Taskand resources to each battle group will be allocated on the basis of 
    • For example, the composition of every IBG would differ on the basis of the terrain where it is located i.e. an IBG operating in a desert needs to be constituted differently from one operating in the mountains.
  • Each IBGwill be headed by a Major General.
  • The integrated units for the border will be all-encompassing, with artillery, armoured, combat engineers and signal units.
  • IBGshave been classified into- Defensive and Offensive.
    • Defensive IBGswould hold ground at vulnerable points or where enemy action is expected.
    • Offensive IBGshave the ability to quickly mobilise and make thrust into enemy territory for strikes.
  • After years of deliberations, the Army decided to raise the IBGs along the borders with China and Pakistan that will help it carry out swift strikes in case of a war.

40 gharials released in Ghaghara river amid lockdown

Recently Government of Uttar Pradesh has released Gharials (Gavialis gangeticus) in the Ghaghara river for the conservation and protection in natural habitat.

  • Natural Habitat: Fresh watersof the northern part of India.
  • Gharials, sometimes called gavials, are a type of Asian crocodilian distinguished by their long, thin snouts which resembles a pot (gharain Hindi).
  • Significance:Population of Gharials are a good indicator of clean river water.
  • Gharialsare a type of Crocodilians that also includes crocodiles, alligators, caimans, etc. India has three species of Crocodilians namely:
    • Gharial(Gavialis gangeticus): International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)– Critically Endangered.
    • Mugger crocodile(Crocodylus palustris): IUCN- Vulnerable
    • Saltwater crocodile(Crocodylus porosus): IUCN- Least Concern
  • In comparison to Crocodiles, Gharials are very shy and unharmful species.
  • Primary Habitat: Chambal river
    • The chambal originates at the Singar Chouri peakin the northern slopes of the Vindhya mountains (Indore, Madhya Pradesh).
    • It joins the Yamuna River in Etawah District of UP.
    • Tributaries:Banas, Kali Sindh, Parbati.
    • The National Chambal Sanctuaryis located along river Chambal on the tri-junction of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. It is known for critically endangered gharials, the red-crowned roof turtle, and the endangered Ganges river dolphin.
  • Secondary Habitat:Ghaghra and Gandak river, Girwa river (Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh), the Ramganga river in Jim Corbett National Park and the Sone river.
  • Status: Gharials are critically endangeredin the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Species.
    • Listed under Schedule Iof the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.
    • Listed on Appendix Iof Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
  • Conservation Efforts:Breeding Centres of Kukrail Gharial Rehabilitation Centre in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, National Chambal Sanctuary (Gharial Eco Park, Madhya Pradesh).
  • Threats:
    • Gharials prefer sandbanksas suitable habitats. Wild animals as well as humans often destroy their eggs.
    • Increased river pollution, dam construction, massive-scale fishing operations and floods.
    • Illegal sand mining and poaching.

Ghaghara River

  • It acts as an important aquatic corridor for gharials in Uttar Pradesh.
  • Its source is near Gurla Mandhata peak, south of Mansarovarin Tibet.
  • It is known as the Karnaili in Western Nepal.
  • It’s important tributaries are theSarda, the Sarju (Ayodhya is located on its bank) and the Rapti.
  • The Ghaghara joins the Ganga a few kilometres downstream of Chhapra in Bihar.
  • After reaching the plain area, its stream gets divided into many branches of which, Koriyab and Garwa are important.
  • The river bed is sandy and sudden bends start occurring in the stream.

Coronavirus: India gets first automated COVID-19 testing machine ‘COBAS 6800’ that can test 1200 samples in 24-hours

The Union Health Minister inaugurated the first automated coronavirus testing device named ‘COBAS 6800’.

  • This is the first such testing machine that has been procured by the Government for testing of Covid-19 cases and is installed at theNational Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
  • COBAS 6800 is a fully automated,high end machine for performing Real Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) testing for Covid-19.
  • It will provide quality, high-volume testing as it can test around 1200 samples in 24 hours.
    • This will largely increase the testing capacity in the country.
  • It is a sophisticated machine enabled with robotics that minimizes the chance of contaminationas well as the risk of infection to the health care workers.
  • The machine requires a minimum Biosafety Level 2(BSL2+) containment level for testing, thus it was placed at the NCDC.
    • BSL2+ covers laboratories that work with agents associated with human diseases (i.e. pathogenic or infectious organisms) that pose a moderate health hazard.
  • The devicecan also detect other pathogens like Viral Hepatitis B & C, HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)Mycobacterium Tuberculosis, Papilloma, Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection, Chlamydia (a bacterial infection), Neisseria (bacteria) etc.

National Centre for Disease Control

  • The National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), formerly the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD),had its origin as the Central Malaria Bureau, established at Kasauli (Himachal Pradesh) in 1909.
  • NICD was transformed into the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) with a larger mandate of controlling emerging and re-emerging diseases in 
  • It functions as the nodal agencyin the country for disease surveillance, facilitating prevention and control of communicable diseases.
  • It is also a national level institute for training specialized manpowerfor public health, laboratory sciences and entomological services and is involved in various applied research activities.
  • The Institute is under administrative control of the Director General of Health Services,Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
  • The Institute has its headquarters in Delhi.


Pakistan’s 40-yr-old Gilgit-Baltistan dam project could finally be a reality, with China help  

Recently, Pakistan signed a contract with a joint venture of a China Power (Chinese state-run firm) and the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO-a commercial arm of Pakistan’s military) for the construction of the Diamer-Bhasha dam.

  • The contract covers construction of a diversion system, main dam, access bridge and the 21MW Tangir hydropower project.
  • The Diamer-Bhasha Dam is located on theIndus River in northern Pakistan between Kohistan district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Diamer district in Gilgit Baltistan.
  • The dam will have agross storage capacity of 8.1 Million Acre Feet (MAF) and power generation capacity of 4500 MW.
  • With the height of 272 meters,it will be the tallest Roller Compact Concrete (RCC) dam in the world.
  • The dam project with a total financial outlay of about 1,406.5 billion Pakistani rupees would be completed in 2028.
  • Purpose:
    • Fulfil the increasing water and electricity requirements of the country.
    • Serve as the main storage dam of the country, besides Mangla and Tarbela dams.
    • Help alleviate acute irrigation shortage in the Indus basin irrigation system.
    • Reduce intensity, quantum and duration of floods and reduce magnitude and frequency of floods in the River Indus downstream.
    • Accelerate development and create job opportunities, besides improving availability of water and clean energy.
  • The project was approved in 2010, but it suffered delays because international lending agencies backtracked due to the opposition from India as a major part of the dam is located in Gilgit-Baltistan (one of the disputed territories of India) and it will cause unrest in the region.

  • India’s Stand:
    • India has opposed the moveon the grounds that Gilgit-Baltistan region is part of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir that was illegally occupied by Pakistan.
    • India has consistently conveyed her protest and shared concerns with both China and Pakistanon all such projects in the Indian territories under Pakistan’s illegal occupation.
    • In the past too, India has opposed projects jointly taken up by Pakistan and China in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (POK) as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Govt ropes in Zydus Cadila to mass produce ELISA antibody test kits   

Recently, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has approved the first batch of antibody testing kits called “Covid KAVACH ELISA” manufactured by Zydus-Cadila to be used in sero-survey.

  • Covid KAVACH ELISA has been developed at the National Institute of Virology, Pune,by isolating the virus from patients in India.
    • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA)is a test that detects and measures antibodies in blood.
    • The test can be used to determineantibodies related to certain infectious conditions.
    • It can be used to diagnose HIV, which causes AIDS, Zika virus
  • The ELISA kits will be used in the new nationwide “sero-survey” of the Ministry of Health.
    • Sero-survey is meant to detect the prevalence of antibodiesthat appear after a patient has recovered.
    • The ICMR will lead the testing of 24,000 individuals in 69 districts at household level as part of this sero-survey.
  • According to the ICMR,real-time Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) is still the frontline test for clinical diagnosis of Covid-19, but the antibody tests are critical for surveillance to understand the proportion of population exposed to infection.
    • The antibody test forCovid-19 acts as a screening process that gives quick results in a few hours.
    • The antibody test detects the body’s response to the virus. It gives an indication that a person has been exposed to the virus.
    • If the test is positive, the swab is collected and an Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) test is done using the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) kit.
  • ELISA antibody tests are different from the rapid antibody testspreviously used by Indian authorities.
    • ELISA kits are more reliable and cheaperthan rapid antibody testing kits.
    • The ELISA kit has a sensitivityof 98.7% and a specificity of 100%.
      • Sensitivity signifies accurate positive test results, whereas specificity signifies accurate negative test results.
    • According to the World Health Organisation (WHO)the kits are suitable for “for testing large numbers of samples per day, as well as in blood banks or for surveillance studies”.
  • ELISA has minimal biosafety and biosecurity requirementsas compared to the real-time RT-PCR
  • Moreover, ELISA-based testing is easily possible even at the district levelas the test kit has inactivated virus.


  • Antibody, also called immunoglobulinis a protective protein produced by the immune system in response to the presence of a foreign substance, called an 
    • A wide range of substances are regarded by the body as antigens, including disease-causing organisms and toxic materials.
  • Antibodies recognize and attack onto antigensin order to remove them from the body.

PCR Test

  • Kary Mullis, the American biochemist invented the PCR technique.He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1993.
  • Under this, copies of a segment of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) are createdusing an enzyme called Polymerase.
    • The‘chain reaction’ signifies how the DNA fragments are copied, exponentially — one is copied into two, the two are copied into four, and so on.
  • fluorescent DNAbinding dye called the “probe” is added to DNA, which shows the presence of the virus on a fluorometer.
  • However, coronavirus is made of RNA (ribonucleic acid).
  • Therefore to detect coronavirus, RNA is converted into DNA using a technique called reverse transcription.
    • A‘reverse transcriptase’ enzyme converts the RNA into DNA.
  • Copies of the DNA are then made and amplified.
  • Generally, the entire process of PCR test takes 24 hours to deliver the result.

Indian Council of Medical Research

  • Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is the apex body in India for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research.
  • Its mandate is to conduct, coordinate and implement medical researchfor the benefit of the Society; translating medical innovations into products/processes and introducing them into the public health system.
  • It is funded by the Government of India through the Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.

NIPERs takes up COVID-19-related research and product development initiatives   

A large number of multi-faceted research proposals have been submitted by various National Institutes of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPERs), towards the containment, identification and treatment of Covid-19 to relevant agencies for approval.

  • Also, these institutes are working on several projects. For example, NIPER Guwahati has come up with a“hands-free object” for touch-less opening of doors, drawers & elevators.
  • National Institutes of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPERs) are the institutes of national importanceunder the aegis of the Department of Pharmaceutical, Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers.
  • The seven institutes are functional at Ahmedabad (Gujarat), Hyderabad (Telangana), Hajipur (Bihar), Kolkata (West Bengal), Guwahati (Assam), Mohali (Punjab), and Raebareli (Uttar Pradesh).
  • The Institute is conceived to provide leadership in pharmaceutical sciencesand related areas not only within the country, but also to the countries in South East Asia, South Asia and Africa.
  • NIPER, Mohali is a member of Association of Indian Universities and Association of Commonwealth Universities.
    • Association of Indian Universities (AIU),formed in 1925 as Inter-University Board (IUB), is an association of all universities in India. It is actively engaged in the growth and development of higher education.
    • The Association of Commonwealth Universitiesis an international organisation dedicated to building a better world through higher education in over 50 countries across the Commonwealth.
  • Thrust Areas of Research:
    • Tuberculosis
    • Malaria
    • Diabetes
    • Leishmaniasis (disease caused by the protozoan Leishmania parasites)
    • Immunomodulation (therapeutic interventions aimed at modifying the immune response)

DBT-BIRAC COVID-19 Research Consortium Recommends 70 Proposals for funding in Vaccines, Diagnostics , Therapeutics and other Technologies 

Recently, the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) has launched a National Biomedical Resource Indigenization Consortium (NBRIC) to drive indigenous innovation focused on developing reagents (used in chemical reactions), diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics for Covid-19.

  • It is a Public Private Partnership (PPP)hosted and led by the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms (C-CAMP).
  • It is a‘Make in India’ initiative for biomedical research and innovative products, towards promoting import substitution and exports.
  • It aims to establish a nation-wide collaborative platform for convergence of research, product resources and services towards developing reagents, diagnostics, vaccines, and therapeutics across India.
  • It identifies providers/manufacturing enterprisesof crucial bio-medical resources and connects them with policy makers as well as with other stakeholders from public and private sectors.

Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms

  • Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms (C-CAMP) is one of the centers for technology-based innovation and entrepreneurship in the field of life sciences under the Department of Biotechnology (DBT).
  • It intends to develop state-of-the-art technologies and to provide training on these technologies to academia and industry.

MoT organises webinar series on ‘Exploring River Nila

Recently, the Ministry of Tourism organised a webinar- ‘Exploring River Nila’ as a part of the Dekho Apna Desh Webinar series.

  • River Nila is also known as Bharathapuzha and Ponnani.
  • Origin: Amaravathipuzhaoriginating from Thrimoorthy Hills of Anamalais in Tamil Nadu joins with Kalpathipuzha at Parali in Palakkad District and forms Nila.
  • Drainage Area:Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
    • It flows westward through Palakkad Gap (most prominent discontinuity in the western ghats) and drains into the Arabian Sea.
  • Main Tributaries:Kannadipuzha (Chitturpuzha), Kalpathipuzha (Korapuzha), Gayathripuzha and Thuthapuzha
  • Malampuzha damis the largest among the reservoirs built across Bharathapuzha.
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