PM Modi extends Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana till Diwali, Chhath, end of November
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced that the Government of India has extended the Pradha Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana which provides for free of cost to all beneficiaries (Antyodaya Anna Yojana and Priority Household ration card holders) covered under Targeted Public Distribution System as per provisions of NFSA (including those covered under DBT).
- It was announced during the first phase of COVID19 pandemic lockdown in India.
- 80 crore poor people will to get 5 kg wheat or rice and 1 kg of preferred pulses for free every month till June 2020 (extended recently till November 2020).
- The government will spend more than Rs 90,000 crore towards the extension of the scheme.
- The estimated cost for distribution of food grains (Rice and Wheat) and pulses will be Rs 1,48,938 crore approx (April-November 2020).
SERB launches ‘Accelerate Vigyan’ scheme to strengthen scientific research mechanism
To provide a single platform for research internships, capacity building programs, and workshops across the country, the Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) has launched a new scheme called ‘Accelerate Vigyan’ (AV). Straight off the block, AV has already called for applications under its ‘ABHYAAS’ component for the Winter Season.
- The primary objective of this inter-ministerial scheme is to give more thrust on encouraging high-end scientific research and preparing scientific manpower, which can lead to research careers and knowledge-based economy.
- Recognising that all research has its base as development of quality and well-trained researchers, AV will initiate and strengthen mechanisms of identifying research potential, mentoring, training and hands-on workshop on a national scale.
- The vision is to expand the research base, with three broad goals, namely, consolidation / aggregation of all scientific programs, initiating high-end orientation workshops, and creating opportunities for research internships for those who do not have access to such resources / facilities.
- As for the ‘ABHYAAS’ programme, it is an attempt to boost research and development in the country by enabling and grooming potential PG/PhD students by means of developing their research skills in selected areas across different disciplines or fields.
- It has two components – High-End Workshops (‘KARYASHALA’) and Research Internships (‘VRITIKA’). This is especially important for those researchers who have limited opportunities to access such learning capacities / facilities / infrastructure.
- Another new component under AV is ‘SAMMOHAN’ that has been sub-divided into ‘SAYONJIKA’ and ‘SANGOSHTI’. SAYONJIKA is an open-ended program to catalogue the capacity building activities in science and technology supported by all government funding agencies in the country. SANGOSHTI is a pre-existing program of SERB.
Science and Engineering Research Board –
- Science and Engineering Research Board is a statutory body under the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, established by an Act of the Parliament of India in 2009 ( SERB ACT, 2008).
- The Board is chaired by the Secretary to the Government of India in the Department of Science and Technology and shall have other senior government officials and eminent scientists as members.
- The Board was set up for promoting basic research in science and engineering and to provide financial assistance to scientists, academic institutions, R&D laboratories, industrial concerns and other agencies for such research.
Harmful practices rob women and girls of ‘right to reach their full potential’ – State of the World Population Report 2020
United Nations Population Fund has released the ‘State of the World Population Report 2020, titled ‘Against my will: defying the practices that harm women and girls and undermine equality’.
Findings of the report
- One in three girls missing globally due to sex selection, both pre- and post-natal, is from India — 46 million out of the total 142 million. The figure shows that the number of missing women has more than doubled over the past 50 years, who were at 61 million in 1970.
- The report examines the issue of missing women by studying sex ratio imbalances at birth as a result of gender-biased sex selection as well as excess female mortality due to deliberate neglect of girls because of a culture of son preference. Excess female mortality is the difference between observed and expected mortality of the girl child or avoidable death of girls during childhood.
- Globally, roughly one in five (21%) of women are subjected to child marriage, the State of World Population Report said. The report said that the drivers of child marriage are poverty, insecurity and limited access to quality education and work opportunities. These factors mean that child marriage is often seen as the best option for girls, or as a means to reduce the economic burden on the family.
- According to estimates averaged over a five year period (2013-17), annually, there were 1.2 million missing female births, at a global level. India had about 4,60,000 girls ‘missing’ at birth each year. These skewed numbers translate into long-term shifts in the proportions of women and men in the population of some countries, the report points out.
- In many countries, this results in a “marriage squeeze” as prospective grooms far outnumber prospective brides, which further results in human trafficking for marriage as well as child marriages.
India specific findings
- The State of World Population Report added that 32% of Indian women who had been married before the age of 18 had experienced physical abuse from their husbands, compared to 17% for those who married as adults. This is based on a survey of more than 8,000 women in five states where child marriage is most prevalent – Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkand, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.
- However, there is a silver lining. According to the report, advances in India have contributed to a 50% decline in child marriages in South Asia. The National Family Health Survey 2015-16 data had said that child marriage in India fell from 47% in 2005-’06 to 26.8% in 2015-’16.
- The report cites a 2014 study to state that India has the highest rate of excess female deaths at 13.5 per 1,000 female births or one in nine deaths of females below the age of 5 due to postnatal sex selection. The same study shows that in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan excess female mortality of girls below 5 years of age was under 3%.
- However, the advent of technology and increased access to ultrasound imaging ensured that parents didn’t have to wait for the birth of their girl child to kill her but could terminate a foetus upon knowing its gender. This resulted in the number of girls missing due to female foeticide exceeding those that were missing because of postnatal sex selection.
United Nations Population Fund
- UNFPA (formerly the United Nations Fund for Population Activities) is formally named the United Nations Population Fund. The organisation was created in 1969, the same year the United Nations General Assembly declared “parents have the exclusive right to determine freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children.”
- Their work involves the improvement of reproductive health; including creation of national strategies and protocols, and birth control by providing supplies and services. The organisation has recently been known for its worldwide campaign against child marriage, obstetric fistula and female genital mutilation.
- The UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) establishes its mandate. UNFPA is not supported by the UN budget, instead, it is entirely supported by voluntary contributions of donor governments, intergovernmental organisations, the private sector, foundations and individuals.
- UNFPA works directly to tackle Sustainable Development Goals on health (SDG3), education (SDG4) and gender equality (SDG5).
- The agency began operations in 1969 as the United Nations Fund for Population Activities under the administration of the United Nations Development Fund.In 1971 it was placed under the authority of the United Nations General Assembly.Its name was changed into United Nations Population Fund in 1987.
The G4 flu virus with ‘pandemic potential’, found by Chinese researchers?
In a new research, scientists from China – which has the largest population of pigs in the world – have identified a “recently emerged” strain of influenza virus that is infecting Chinese pigs and that has the potential of triggering a pandemic. Named G4, the swine flu strain has genes similar to those in the virus that caused the 2009 flu pandemic.
- The scientists identified the virus through surveillance of influenza viruses in pigs that they carried out from 2011 to 2018 in ten provinces of China.
- They also found that the G4 strain has the capability of binding to human-type receptors (like, the SARS-CoV-2 virus binds to ACE2 receptors in humans), was able to copy itself in human airway epithelial cells, and it showed effective infectivity and aerosol transmission in ferrets.
- The scientists suggest that controlling the prevailing G4 Eurasian-Avian like (EA) H1N1 viruses in pigs and closely monitoring human populations, especially workers in the swine industry, should be “urgently implemented”.
2009 Swine Flu pandemic
- The WHO declared the outbreak of type A H1N1 influenza virus a pandemic in 2009 when there were around 30,000 cases globally.
- The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines swine flu as, “a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses that regularly cause outbreaks of influenza in pigs. Influenza viruses that commonly circulate in swine are called “swine influenza viruses” or “swine flu viruses”. Like human influenza viruses, there are different sub-types and strains of swine influenza viruses”.
- Essentially, swine flu is a virus that pigs can get infected by. While humans typically do not get infected by such a virus that circulates among pigs, when they do, it is called “variant influenza virus”. Human-to-human transmission among variant influenza viruses is limited. As per the CDC, most commonly, humans may get infected by such viruses due to exposure from infected pigs.
- The 2009 pandemic was caused by a strain of the swine flu called the H1N1 virus, which was transmitted from human to human. The symptoms of swine flu include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headaches, chills and fatigue.