Current Affairs May 10


Why in News?

  • The Corps of Military Police Centre & School (CMP C &S) at Bengaluru held the attestation parade of the first batch of 83 women soldiers.
  • Until now, the army had women officers only in certain streams and this is the first time that women have been inducted in the non-officer category. These women soldiers will perform duties similar to what is done by the male military police personnel.




Anti-COVID drug developed by DRDO

Why in News?

  • An anti-COVID-19 therapeutic application of the drug 2-deoxy-D-glucose (2-DG) has been developed by Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Sciences (INMAS), a lab of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), in collaboration with Dr Reddy’s Laboratories (DRL), Hyderabad.
  • Clinical trial results have shown that this molecule helps in faster recovery of hospitalised patients and reduces supplemental oxygen dependence. Higher proportion of patients treated with 2-DG showed RT-PCR negative conversion in COVID patients.
  • In 2-DG arm, significantly higher proportion of patients improved symptomatically and became free from supplemental oxygen dependence (42% vs 31%) by Day-3 in comparison to SoC, indicating an early relief from Oxygen therapy/dependence.
  • The similar trend was observed in patients aged more than 65 years.
  • DCGI granted permission for Emergency Use of this drug as adjunct therapy in moderate to severe COVID-19 patients. Being a generic molecule and analogue of glucose, it can be easily produced and made available in plenty in the country.
  • The drug comes in powder form in sachet, which is taken orally by dissolving it in water.
  • It accumulates in the virus infected cells and prevents virus growth by stopping viral synthesis and energy production. Its selective accumulation in virally infected cells makes this drug unique.




3rd Arctic Science Ministerial (ASM3)

Why in News?

  • India is participating in the 3rd Arctic Science Ministerial (ASM3) – the global platform for discussing research and cooperation in the Arctic region.

India at ASM3

  • India shared its plans to contribute observing systems in the Arctic, both in-situ and by remote sensing.
  • The country would deploy open ocean mooring in the Arctic for long-term monitoring of upper ocean variables and marine meteorological parameters.


  • The launch of NISER (NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar) satellite mission, in collaboration with the USA, is underway.
  • NISER aims to conduct global measurements of the cause and consequences of land surface changes using advanced radar imaging. India’s contributions to the Sustained Arctic Observational Network (SAON) would continue.

Earlier Meetings

  • The first two meetings—ASM1 and ASM2—were held in the USA in 2016 and Germany in 2018, respectively.
  • ASM3, jointly organised by Iceland and Japan, is the first Ministerial meeting being held in Asia.


  • The meeting is designed to provide opportunities to various stakeholders, including academia, indigenous communities, governments and policymakers, to enhance collective understanding of the Arctic region, emphasize and engage in constant monitoring, and strengthen observations.


  • The theme for this year is ‘Knowledge for a Sustainable Arctic’.
  • Arctic warming and its ice melt are global concerns as they play a pivotal role in regulating climate, sea levels, and maintaining biodiversity.
  • Moreover, there is growing evidence of connection between the Arctic and the Indian Ocean (which modulates the Indian monsoon).
  • Hence, improving the understanding of physical processes and quantifying the impact of Arctic ice melt on the Indian summer monsoon is very important.

Arctic Council

  • Since 2013, India enjoys ‘Observer’ status in the Arctic Council with twelve other countries (Japan, China, France, Germany, UK, Italy, Switzerland, Poland, Spain, Netherlands, Singapore, and South Korea).
  • The Arctic Council is a high-level intergovernmental forum to promote cooperation, coordination, and interaction towards sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic.
  • As part of the Arctic Council, India contributes to the international deliberations to develop effective cooperative partnerships towards a safe, stable, and secure Arctic.
  • India’s engagement with the Arctic dates back to 1920 with the signing of the Svalbard Treaty in Paris. Since July 2008, India has a permanent research station in the Arctic called Himadari at NyAlesund, Svalbard Area in Norway.
  • It has also deployed a multi-sensor moored observatory called IndARC in the Kongsfjorden fjord since July 2014.
  • The research in the Arctic region from India is coordinated, conducted, and promoted by the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR), Goa, under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India.




Intellectual Property Rights waiver

  • The USA would support waiving trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights (TRIPS) for the production of COVID-19 vaccines.
  • The proposal, if passed by the WTO with the support of the European Union (EU), could dramatically alter how pharmaceutical companies worldwide access proprietary trade know-how for the production of leading vaccines.

What is the argument in favour of relaxing TRIPS rules?

  • The broader context for emergency action aimed at rapidly increasing vaccine availability across the world is the sharp surge in COVID-19 cases in India and Brazil.
  • Global concern also stems from the risk that the Indian variant, believed to be driving a second wave of devastating intensity in the country, could potentially fuel second or third waves across the world, causing a setback to the progress made in controlling transmission across the U.S. and EU.
  • Additionally, the Brazil and South African variants still pose a threat in some pockets. Across many affected nations, vaccine availability has emerged as a bottleneck impeding progress.
  • In this context, a fierce debate has been underway, pitting global-vaccine-access advocates against vaccine developers and pharmaceutical firms that rely on patented technology, usually of a highly specialised nature, to produce vaccines.

Can a waiver resolve the vaccine shortage?

  • On the one hand, it is undeniable that intellectual property rights are a part of the problem of worldwide vaccine shortages — the logic of a wider production base globally leading to an exponential increase in vaccine production is undeniable. However, several caveats remain.
  • First, there may be serious issues associated with manufacturing vaccines, for example, with those based on messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, if there is just an easing of the associated intellectual property rights rules but no further support to generic pharmaceutical firms in countries such as India and South Africa.
      • This is because a “tech transfer” is also needed for the latter to actually commence production, especially for mRNA vaccines, including the ones produced by Moderna and Pfizer along with BioNTech.
      • To illustrate, Pfizer has pointed out that its vaccine requires the use of 280 components from 86 suppliers and highly specialised manufacturing equipment.
  • Second, there is a strong likelihood that it will take a considerable amount of time, even several years, for generic producers’ plants to become operational at optimal capacity.
      • This raises the question of whether today’s vaccines would even be relevant at that point in time, especially if new variants prove resistant to vaccine formulations currently available.
  • Finally, there is the classic counter-argument to calls for patent relaxations, that such policies could discourage pharmaceutical companies from investing in producing next-generation vaccines. Though many, including Mr. Biden, have argued that humanitarian need trumps the profit motive during a pandemic, the decision to waive all TRIPS rules should be preceded by a rigorous analysis of the effects such a policy would have on the biotechnology sector and global supply chains for its products.

What actions are likely?

  • No significant steps forward will be possible until other major member nations of the WTO sign on, including the EU.
  • The speed of potential action will also be dampened by the fact that in parallel to the waivers, a transfer of personnel, raw materials and equipment to developing nations will be necessary.




Misuse of CT scans and steroids to diagnose and treat COVID-19

  • All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) has cautioned against the use of CT scans indiscriminately to diagnose the disease, especially in the early stages. This exposes individuals to unnecessary radiation, which could be harmful in the long run.
  • A single CT scan is equal to 300 X-rays, which may increase the risk of cancer later in life for young people.
  • Doctors and the World Health Organization (WHO) are also cautioning against the use of corticosteroids like dexamethasone, a potent anti-inflammatory drug, for patients who have non-severe COVID-19.
  • Corticosteroids have been proven to benefit patients with moderate and severe infection.

When is a CT scan advised for a COVID-19 patient?

  • An RT-PCR test is the standard for diagnosis or confirmation of COVID-19. Use of CT for the diagnosis of COVID-19 should be restricted to that subgroup of patients who may have classical symptoms of the illness but have a negative RT-PCR test result.
  • However, a chest CT can be useful in evaluating patients with moderate or severe disease, to identify complications like thromboembolism or pneumomediastinum.
  • Where a patient may have classical symptoms of COVID-19 but his RT-PCR test is negative, or situations when a CT pulmonary angiogram might be in order to rule out pulmonary embolism in a patient who is on anti-coagulants and steroids and is not showing any signs of recovery.
  • Also, in cases where a patient in the ICU with severe COVID-19 is not showing any improvement and a chest X-ray shows new lesions, a CT appearance might give a clue towards a diagnosis of dangerous COVID-19-associated fungal super-infections like aspergillosis or mucormycosis.
  • In a fourth scenario, a clinician might order a CT chest to rule out spontaneous pneumomediastinum, a life-threatening complication.
  • Rather than CT findings, it is oxygen saturation that is the key to treatment decisions. Yet, in 95% of the cases, CT scan is a misused tool, often prescribed to rule out pneumonia even in mild cases of COVID-19.

Why are steroids being prescribed for COVID-19 patients?

  • Even though many doctors in India had started treating seriously ill COVID-19 patients with corticosteroids like dexamethasone much earlier during the pandemic, recommendation on their use from international agencies like the WHO came only in September 2020, following the U.K.’s RECOVERY Trial, which found mortality benefit for patients who received steroids.
  • In many patients, death occurs following a hyper-immune response (cytokine storm) to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which damages the lungs and other organs, leading to multi-organ dysfunction syndrome.
  • Corticosteroids like dexamethasone, as anti-inflammatory agents, work by calming down the immune system and preventing the progression of organ damage.
  • One of the main concerns is that we do not want to start steroids too early in the illness when viral replication is happening as it might interfere with the immune system’s natural ability to fight back. We also do not want to miss that critical point when steroids can prevent the immune system from unleashing the cytokine storm.
  • The WHO guidelines say that steroids may be administered to patients whose resting saturation levels are below 94% and whose respiration rate at rest is over 24 per minute.
  • However, steroids can benefit some patients who are not on supplementary oxygen yet but are showing early indications that they might worsen.




The Supreme Court ruling on identifying backward classes

  • In the judgment that declared the Maratha reservation unconstitutional, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court dealt with another issue.
  • By a 3:2 majority, it ruled that after the passage of the 102nd Constitution Amendment Act in 2018, the States do not have any power to identify ‘socially and educationally backward’ (SEBC) classes.
  • The Union government argued that it was never its intention to deprive State governments of their power to identify SEBCs, but the Court interpreted the bare text of the Amendment to the effect that only the President can publish a list of backward classes in relation to each State and that only Parliament can make inclusions or exclusions in it.

What does the 102nd Amendment say?

  • The Amendment established a National Commission for Backward Classes by adding Article 338B to the Constitution.
  • The five-member Commission was tasked with monitoring safeguards provided for socially and educationally backward classes, giving advice on their socio-economic development, inquiring into complaints and making recommendations, among other functions.
  • Significantly, it was laid down that the Centre and the States shall consult the Commission on all policy matters concerning the SEBCs.
  • The Amendment also added Article 342A, under which the President shall notify a list of SEBCs in relation to each State and Union Territory, in consultation with Governors of the respective States.
  • Once this ‘Central List’ is notified, only Parliament could make inclusions or exclusions in the list by law.
  • This provision is drafted in exactly the same word as the one concerning the lists of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Further, a definition of ‘SEBCs’ was added to the Constitution — ‘SEBC’ means “such backward classes as are so deemed under Article 342A for the purposes of this Constitution”.

Why did this Amendment come up for judicial interpretation?

  • The reservation for the Maratha community was challenged in the Bombay High Court on various grounds. One of the grounds was that the Act creating the Maratha quota through a new category called ‘SEBC’ was unconstitutional because after the introduction of the 102nd Amendment, the State legislature had no power to identify any new backward class.
  • Separately, a writ petition was also filed in the Supreme Court questioning the validity of the Amendment as it violated the federal structure and deprived the States of their powers. In this context, the court had to examine the validity of the Amendment.

What next?

  • The Supreme Court has directed the Centre to notify the list of SEBCs for each State and Union territory, and until it is done, the present State Lists may continue to be in use.
  • The Centre may either comply with this or seek to further amend the Constitution to clarify the position that the 102nd Amendment was not intended to denude the States of their power to identify SEBCs.




NASA denounces China

Why in News?

  • American space agency NASA slammed China for failing to meet “responsible standards” regarding its space debris, hours after remnants of the country’s largest and an out of control rocket disintegrated over the Indian Ocean near the Maldives.
  • The debris from China’s Long March 5B rocket re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere.
  • The rocket launched the first module of China’s new Tianhe space station into Earth’s orbit on April 29.
  • At around 100 feet tall and weighing about 22 metric tonnes, the rocket stage is one of the largest objects to ever re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere on an uncontrolled trajectory.
  • Its re-entry prompted international concern about where it might land. Scientists said the risk to humans was astronomically low, but it was not impossible for it to land in an inhabited area.
  • Last year, the re-entry of debris from the first Long March 5B flight fell in Ivory Coast, damaging several homes in villages. It was the largest craft to crash to Earth since the US space laboratory, Skylab scattered debris over the southern Australian town of Esperance in 1979.
  • China is expected to carry out more launches in its space station programme in the coming weeks as it aims to complete the space station project next year.




Shuvuuia Deserti

Why in News?

  • Under the cover of darkness in desert habitats about 70 million years ago, in what is today Mongolia and northern China, a gangly looking dinosaur employed excellent night vision and superb hearing to thrive as a menacing pint-sized nocturnal predator.
  • Scientists said an examination of a ring of bones surrounding the pupil and a bony tube inside the skull that houses the hearing organ showed that this dinosaur, called Shuvuuia deserti, boasted visual and auditory capabilities akin to a barn owl, indicating it could it hunt in total darkness.
  • Shuvuuia was a pheasant-sized, two-legged Cretaceous Period dinosaur weighing about as much as a small house cat. Lacking the strong jaws and sharp teeth of many carnivorous dinosaurs, it had a remarkably bird-like and lightly built skull and many tiny teeth like grains of rice.
  • Its mid-length neck and small head, coupled with very long legs, made it resemble an awkward chicken. Unlike birds, it had short but powerful arms ending in a single large claw, good for digging.
  • The researchers looked at a structure called the lagena, a curving and finger-like sac that sits in a cavity in the bones surrounding the brain and is connected to the part of the ear that lets reptiles and birds keep balance and move their heads while walking.
  • Acute hearing helps nocturnal predators locate prey. The longer the lagena, the better hearing an animal has.
  • The barn owl, a proficient nocturnal predator even in pitch-black conditions, has the proportionally longest lagena of any living bird. Shuvuuia is unique among predatory dinosaurs with a hyper-elongated lagena, almost identical in relative size to a barn owl’s.
  • The researchers also looked at a series of tiny bones called the scleral ring that encircle the pupil of the eye. It exists in birds and lizards and was present in the ancestors of today’s mammals. Shuvuuia had a very wide scleral ring, indicating an extra-large pupil size that made its eye a specialized light-capture device.
  • The study found that nocturnality was uncommon among dinosaurs, aside from a group called alvarezsaurs to which Shuvuuia belonged.
  • Alvarezsaurs had nocturnal vision very early in their lineage, but super-hearing took more time to evolve.






Why in News?

  • Archaeologists discovered the remains of nine Neanderthals at a prehistoric site near Rome, Italy.

About Discovery

  • Eight of the remains are dated to between 50,000 and 68,000 years ago, while one, the oldest, is dated to between 90,000 and 100,000 years ago.
  • The find occurred in Grotta Guattari, prehistoric caves discovered more than 80 years ago, located around 100 metres from the coast of Tyrrhenian Sea in San Felice Circeo, near Latina, in the Lazio region.
  • Animal remains have also been found, including the aurochs, a large extinct bovine.


  • Neanderthals, the closest ancient relatives of humans, died out about 40,000 years ago. It is unclear what killed them off, although theories include an inability to adapt to climate change and increased competition from modern humans.




Novel Coronavirus

Why in News?

  • Studies of the coronavirus have largely focused on its ‘spike’ protein. A new study from IISER Bhopal has found that other proteins, in particular, the nucleocapsid or ‘N’ protein may also be responsible for the infectivity of the virus.

SARS-CoV-2 structure

  • The SARS-CoV-2, or novel coronavirus, consists of an RNA genome contained in a spherical capsule which has many proteins, one of which is the ‘spike’ protein that gives it its characteristic spiky surface or ‘crown’.
  • These spike proteins are the ones that help the virus penetrate and enter the body of human hosts.
  • This is therefore used as a target by those developing vaccines as well as drugs. In order to test the effect of these formulations on the virus, scientists often use not live virus particles but ‘pseudotype’ them.
  • That is, they use a core which is a different, harmless virus, encapsulate it in a lipid–protein sphere which has spikes on them made by the spike protein.
  • Usually only the spike protein is used in pseudotyping. However, in real situations, the spike protein does not act in isolation but in conjunction with other proteins.
  • In their study they used vectors of lentivirus that they had pseudotyped with not only the spike protein but with 24 other proteins in all, including the N protein.

Combination effect

  • The infectivity of each of pseudoviruses containing the 24 proteins was tested separately, and the group found that the pseudovirus containing the nucleocapsid ‘N’ protein had higher infectivity than the others.




Great Nicobar plan

Why in News?

  • The Environment Appraisal Committee (EAC) – Infrastructure I of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has flagged serious concerns about NITI Aayog’s ambitious project for Great Nicobar Island.
  • The committee has “recommended” it “for grant of terms of reference (TOR)” for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) studies, which in the first instance will include baseline studies over three months.

About Proposal

  • The proposal includes an international container transshipment terminal, a greenfield international airport, a power plant and a township complex spread over 166 sq. km. (mainly pristine coastal systems and tropical forests), and is estimated to cost ₹75,000 crore.
  • The committee raised a number of additional issues, including about Galathea Bay, the site of the port and the centrepiece of the NITI Aayog proposal. Galathea Bay is an iconic nesting site in India of the enigmatic Giant Leatherback, the world’s largest marine turtle.
  • The committee noted that the site selection for the port had been done mainly on technical and financial criteria, ignoring the environmental aspects. It has now asked for “an independent study/ evaluation for the suitability of the proposed port site with specific focus on Leatherback Turtle, Nicobar Magapod (sic) and Dugong”.
  • Ecological surveys in the last few years have reported a number of new species, many restricted to just the Galathea region. These include the critically endangered Nicobar shrew, the Great Nicobar crake, the Nicobar frog, the Nicobar cat snake, a new skink (Lipinia sp), a new lizard (Dibamus sp,) and a snake of the Lycodon sp that is yet to be described.




‘Black fungus’

Why in News?

  • A rare but serious fungal infection, known as mucormycosis and colloquially as “black fungus”, is being detected relatively frequently among Covid-19 patients in some states. The disease often manifests in the skin and also affects the lungs and the brain.

What is the disease?

  • Although rare, it is a serious infection. It is caused by a group of moulds known as mucormycetes present naturally in the environment.
  • It mainly affects people who are on medication for health problems that reduces their ability to fight environmental pathogens.
  • Sinuses or lungs of such individuals get affected after they inhale fungal spores from the air.
  • Usually, mucormycetes does not pose a major threat to those with a healthy immune system.

What happens when one contracts it?

  • Warning signs include pain and redness around the eyes or nose, with fever, headache, coughing, shortness of breath, bloody vomits, and altered mental status.
  • According to the advisory, infection with mucormycetes should be suspected when there is:
      • Sinusitis — nasal blockade or congestion, nasal discharge (blackish/bloody);
      • Local pain on the cheek bone, one-sided facial pain, numbness or swelling;
      • Blackish discoloration over bridge of nose/palate;
      • Loosening of teeth, jaw involvement;
      • Blurred or double vision with pain;
      • Thrombosis, necrosis, skin lesion;
      • Chest pain, pleural effusion, worsening of respiratory symptoms.

What’s the treatment?

  • While it is treated with antifungals, mucormycosis may eventually require surgery.
  • it is of utmost importance to control diabetes, reduce steroid use, and discontinue immunomodulating drugs.
  • To maintain adequate systemic hydration, the treatment includes infusion of normal saline (IV) before infusion of amphotericin B and antifungal therapy, for at least 4-6 weeks.




CRP tests

Why in News?

  • C-reactive protein (CRP) test, is mainly conducted for patients who are hospitalised for Covid virus treatment, but a large number of doctors are recommending the same test even to those Covid positive patients who are in home isolation with moderate to mild symptoms.
  • CRP is not a diagnostic test but it has prognostic value.
  • Then, why are doctors recommending it to patients in home isolation?

What is a CRP test?

  • It is a blood test and it tells about inflammation level in the body during any ailment and indicates about the infection level.
  • It can be done for any ailment. The higher value of CRP level than the normal level indicates that the infection is increasing. CRP tests is a marker which shows the level of C-reactive protein, which is made by the liver, in the blood.

Why is it recommended for the treatment of Covid patients?

  • Doctors are conducting it mandatorily for the patients with critical conditions who are in hospital care, because it is one of the indicators showing the body’s reaction to the ongoing treatment.
  • If the CRP, which is also recommended in the guidelines for Covid treatment, is normal then the patient’s body is reacting to the treatment positively and if it is higher than the required, then doctors need to check the infection level in the body through other tests like CT scan.

Why and when it should be conducted for those in home isolation?

  • For patients with mild and moderate Covid symptoms, CRP is not necessary unless and until the patient is suffering with the same symptoms even after passing of 5 days of his/her contracting the virus.
  • Doctors recommend it for at least twice on an interval of 4-5 days just to check the inflammation so as to judge about the further complication level.