Current Affairs May 24

UV Disinfection technology

Why in News?

  • There has been increasing evidence for airborne route of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 via aerosols which is now considered to be important by international agencies WHO, REHVA, ASHRAE and by health authorities in several countries.
  • The airborne transmission is a major risk in indoor settings.
  • Based on these studies and recognizing the need for effective solutions of viral disinfection the challenge was to develop an effective fail-proof retro-fit device
      • with high intensities to handle fast airflows to be fitted with minimal intervention in air-ducts of existing HVAC systems that are widely used in indoors in industrial and commercial environment.
  • CSIR-CSIO has developed an UV-C air duct disinfection system. The disinfection system can be used in auditoriums, large conference rooms, classrooms, malls etc. which will provide a relatively safer environment for indoor activities in the current pandemic.
  • UV-C deactivates over 99 % of viruses, bacteria, fungus and other bio – aerosols etc. with appropriate dosages using 254nm UV light.
  • Use of UV-C may also help in ameliorating the fungal infections being witnessed during the current wave of the pandemic.




Electrochemical ELISA test

Why in News?

  • A Bangalore-based start-up has developed a novel, point-of-care Electrochemical ELISA test that enables fast and accurate estimation of total antibody concentration of COVID 19 in clinical samples.
  • A very significant breakthrough to develop the first of its kind, semi-quantitative Electrochemical ELISA test for COVID-19 IgM and IgG antibodies.
  • While Qualitative analysis detects constituent elements in the sample, semiquantitative analysis gives an approximate estimation of their concentrations.
  • This novel technology and product was supported by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), under its initiative on Centre for Augmenting WAR with COVID-19 Health Crisis (CAWACH).
  • The novelty of the technology is based on the measurement of electrochemical redox activity of IgM and IgG antibodies specific to SARS-CoV-2 Spike Glycoprotein (S1).
  • The S1 protein hosts the Receptor Binding Domain (RBD), which latches to the ACE2 receptors on the cells before infection.
  • Hence the antibody tests targeting S1 spike protein are more representative of an immune response against infection compared to other antibody tests targeting Nucleocapcid (N) protein.
  • The test kit come in two parts. One is the handheld analyser which reads the blood sample and gives a detailed report.
  • The other is a test strip where a drop of blood from one’s fingertip is inserted into the device.




One Stop Centre Scheme (OSCs)

Why in News?

  • One Stop Centre Scheme (OSCs) being implemented by the Ministry of Women and Child Development has provided assistance to over 3 lakh women so far.
  • The scheme is being implemented across the country since 1st April, 2015 through State Governments/ Union Territory (UT) Administrations to provide integrated support and assistance to women affected by violence and in distress,
  • both in private and public spaces, under one roof and facilitate immediate, emergency and non-emergency access to a range of services
  • including police, medical, legal aid and counseling, psychological support to fight against any forms of violence against women.
  • As per scheme guidelines, for smooth functioning of the centres, the responsibility of appointment/ recruitment/ selection of empanelled agencies/ individuals to provide legal counselling/ Medical aid/ psycho-social counselling etc. lies with the district administration of the respective States/ UTs.




How are tropical cyclones named?

Why in News?

  • When Tauktae hit the western coast of India recently, people were seen searching for the origin of the name. The cyclone, which was named by Myanmar, means “gecko” — a highly vocal lizard — in Burmese dialect.
  • Similarly, Yaas, the cyclonic storm that is expected to hit the coasts of Odisha and West Bengal, has been named by Oman. Yaas refers to a tree that has a good fragrance and in English, the word is similar to Jasmine.

So, how are the cyclones named?

  • In 2000, a group of nations called WMO/ESCAP (World Meteorological Organisation/United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific), which comprised Bangladesh, India, the Maldives, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand, decided to start naming cyclones in the region.
  • After each country sent in suggestions, the WMO/ESCAP Panel on Tropical Cyclones (PTC) finalised the list.
  • The WMO/ESCAP expanded to include five more countries in 2018 — Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
  • The list of 169 cyclone names released by IMD in April 2020 were provided by these countries — 13 suggestions from each of the 13 countries.

What are the guidelines to adopt names of cyclones?

  • While picking names for cyclones, here are some of the rules that countries need to follow. If these guidelines are following, the name is accepted by the panel on tropical cyclones (PTC) that finalises the selection:
  • The proposed name should be neutral to (a) politics and political figures (b) religious believes, (c) cultures and (d) gender
  • Name should be chosen in such a way that it does not hurt the sentiments of any group of population over the globe
  • It should not be very rude and cruel in nature
  • It should be short, easy to pronounce and should not be offensive to any member
  • The maximum length of the name will be eight letters
  • The proposed name should be provided with its pronunciation and voice over
  • The names of tropical cyclones over the north Indian Ocean will not be repeated. Once used, it will cease to be used again. Thus, the name should be new.




Could black fungus be linked to industrial oxygen?

Why in News?

  • Black fungus has become a post-Covid complication that has startled the medical fraternity because of the way the ‘rare disease’ has spiked in the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in India.
  • While they are clear that dosage of steroids, uncontrolled sugar levels and low immunity are behind the outbreak, they are also looking at a new factor that could have made this rare disease common this time: the quality of Oxygen being supplied in the hospitals.

How shortfall in oxygen ended up being plugged by industrial oxygen and cylinders?

  • Black fungus cases started being reported from among patients who are mostly in post-Covid are and were on Oxygen and steroids under two weeks back.
  • With oxygen shortage being reported across most of India, large amounts of industrial oxygen had been diverted for medical purposes.
  • Along with this industrial cylinders were also used to plug the shortfall in medical oxygen cylinders.
  • While some industrial cylinders were upgraded to medical grade in states like Punjab, this was not possible for all the non-medical cylinders used by patients.

How does it matter if industrial oxygen is used for medical purposes?

  • Though industrial oxygen is more pure than medical oxygen at 99.67%, the condition of industrial cylinders is not as good as medical oxygen cylinders. The former is treated roughly and without proper hygiene. Plus, they are prone to several micro leaks.

So, can we link quality of oxygen supplied through industrial cylinders to spike in black fungus cases?

  • Doctors have said black fungus is found in soil, decaying organic matter and old materials. Oxygen cylinders with contaminated water inside could also pose a threat from the fungus especially for those with low immunity.




Supreme Court ruling on creditors invoking personal guarantees

Why in News?

  • Six months after it transferred all the cases related to personal insolvency to itself, the Supreme Court has ruled that creditors can proceed against promoters of defaulting companies to recover debt if such promoters have given personal guarantees to secure funds.
  • The top court has also said that lenders can also proceed against the promoters of a defaulting company even when the corporate insolvency resolution process of the firm itself has not been completed.

What did the Supreme Court say about personal insolvency under IBC?

  • Mere approval of a resolution plan for a debt-laden company does not automatically discharge a promoter from their liability in lieu of the personal guarantee they had given to secure the funding for the company.
  • Since personal guarantees from promoters are a kind of assurance to lenders that the monies being borrowed will be returned, the apex court has said that under the contract of guarantee, the liability of the promoter will be over and above the liabilities of the company.

What is a personal guarantee? How do promoters use this route to get funds?

  • A personal guarantee is most likely to be furnished by a promoter or promoter entity when the banks demand for collateral which equals the risk they are taking by lending to the firm, which may not be doing so well.
  • It is different from the collateral that firms give to banks to take loans, as Indian corporate laws say that individuals such as promoters are different from businesses and the two are very separate entities.
  • A personal guarantee, therefore, is an assurance from the promoters or promoter group that if the lender allows them the fund, they will be able to turn around the loss-making unit and repay the said loan on time.

Why does the government want promoters to be more liable for the funds they borrow?

  • Bad loans have been a major problem for banks and financial creditors over the past decade. Add to that, promoters had been able to secure funds from banks without the due diligence in most cases because of their past transaction history.
  • To put a stop to this, the government had in December 2019 introduced the provision which gave banks the power to move application for initiation of insolvency against personal guarantors to corporate debtors.
  • Additionally, the finance ministry nudged banks to also pursue personal insolvency cases against promoters who had furnished personal guarantees for the loans taken by their firms, which later was not re-payed as per the agreed schedule.
  • Both these steps were taken to make promoters more liable for their actions and to check the practice of securing monies for a particular project but then diverting it to other projects or works.




How coronavirus variants escape immune response

Why in News?

  • Fast-spreading variants of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus carry mutations that enable the virus to escape some of the immune response created naturally or by vaccination.
  • A new study from scientists at Scripps Research, along with collaborators in Germany and the Netherlands, has found key details of how these escape mutations work.
  • The scientists used structural biology techniques to map at high resolution how important classes of neutralising antibodies bind to the original pandemic strain of SARS-CoV-2—and how the process is disrupted by mutations found in new variants first detected in Brazil (P.1), the United Kingdom (B.1.1.7), South Africa (B.135.1) and India (B.1.617).
  • The research highlights that several of these mutations are clustered in one site, known as the “receptor binding site”, on the spike protein of the virus. Other sites on the receptor binding domain are unaffected.
  • Because of the newer variants’ potential to spread and cause disease—perhaps in some cases, despite vaccination—scientists consider it urgent to discover how the variants manage to escape much of the prior immune response in the body, including the antibody response.
  • In the study, the researchers focused mainly on three mutations in the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein: K417N, E484K and N501Y. Alone or in combination, these mutations are found in most major SARS-CoV-2 variants.
  • They found that many of these antibodies lose their ability to effectively bind and neutralise the virus when the mutations are present.
  • The findings suggest that while antibody responses to the SARS-CoV-2 receptor binding site can be very potent in neutralizing the original Wuhan strain, certain variants are able to escape—perhaps eventually necessitating updated vaccines.
  • The three key viral mutations, which SARS-CoV-2 seems inherently prone to develop, do not alter other vulnerable sites on the virus outside the receptor binding site.
  • The researchers specifically showed that virus-neutralising antibodies targeting two other areas outside the receptor binding site were largely unaffected by these three mutations.
  • This suggests that future vaccines and antibody-based treatments could provide broader protection against SARS-CoV-2 and its variants by eliciting or utilising antibodies against parts of the virus that lie outside the receptor binding site.




How UNESCO grants World Heritage Site tag

Why in News?

  • The Maharashtra government has submitted a tentative “serial” nomination seeking the World Heritage Site tag for 14 forts from the era of 17th century Maratha king Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj on the theme of Maratha Military Architecture in Maharashtra.
  • The serial nomination was forwarded by the Archaeological Survey of India to UNESCO through the Ministry of Culture.
  • UNESCO has accepted the nomination in Tentative Lists of its World Heritage Site.
  • According to the World Heritage Convention’s operational guidelines, a tentative list is an “inventory” of properties a country believes deserves to be a World Heritage Site. After UNESCO includes a property in the Tentative List, that country has to be prepare a nomination document that will be considered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.
  • A World Heritage Site is a location with an “outstanding universal value”. This signifies “cultural and/or natural significance which is so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries and to be of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity”.




Congo volcano eruption

  • The eruption of Mount Nyiragongo recently sent about 5,000 people fleeing from the city of Goma across the nearby border into Rwanda
  • The volcano, located 10km (six miles) from Goma, last erupted in 2002.
  • Mount Nyiragongo is one of the world’s more active volcanoes but there were concerns that its activity had not been properly observed by the Goma Volcano Observatory, since the World Bank cut funding amid allegations of corruption.
  • The lava in Mount Nyiragongo is particularly fluid and has the potential to move fast.




India to push for Covaxin recognition by WHO and EU

  • Faced with concerns that Indians receiving the Covaxin vaccine may face travel restrictions, the government has decided to help ensure that Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech receives clearances from both the World Health Organisation (WHO) and subsequently, the EU’s European Medicines Agency (EMA).
  • The decision comes as 27 EU member countries approved a proposal to allow “fully vaccinated” tourists from countries outside Europe under certain criteria.
  • While the Astra Zeneca vaccine Covishield would be included on the WHO and EU’s listings, if travel from India is accepted, those who have taken Covaxin would not.
  • According to the WHO’s latest status report,, Covaxin is one of 19 vaccines for which applications have been submitted.
  • Seven other applicants including vaccines made by Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson’s ‘Janssen’ vaccine, Chinese Sinopharm, and three versions of the Astra Zeneca vaccine, including Indian-made Covishield from the Serum Institute of India, have all received the green-light for the Emergency Use Listing (EUL).
  • Covaxin has not yet approached the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which has authorised four vaccines including Moderna, Astra Zeneca and Janssen, and has another four under review.
  • At present Covaxin has been approved for use in nine countries — Iran, Philippines, Mauritius, Mexico, Nepal, Guyana, Paraguay, Zimbabwe and India.




 Can traffic noise affect birds?

  • Roadside habitats are important for many plants, insects, mammals, and birds. There is mounting evidence that traffic noise can have several negative effects on animals.
  • The loud noise has been known to disrupt the ability of birds to communicate and even attract mates. A previous study proposed that traffic noise reduced breeding success in Willow Warblers (Phylloscopus trochilus).
  • A new study noted that juvenile zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) raised in an environment that simulated city traffic noise had weaker immune responses and delayed vocal development than chicks raised in quiet nests.
  • The findings indicate that young songbirds, just like human children, are particularly vulnerable to the effects of noise because of its potential to interfere with learning at a critical developmental stage.
  • Traffic noise pollution also has the potential to affect the cultural evolution of birdsong.




India’s deep seas

  • India is home to 4,371 species of deep-sea fauna, including 1,032 species under the kingdom Protista and 3,339 species under the kingdom Animalia, a recent publication by the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) has revealed.
  • The deep-sea ecosystem is considered to be below a depth of 200 metres, where solar energy cannot support primary productivity through photosynthesis.
  • This publication is the first detailed work on deep-sea organisms of the country.
  • Published by Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, the book titled ‘Deep Sea Faunal Diversity in India’.
  • India is surrounded by the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal, the Andaman Sea and the Laccadive Sea (Lakshadweep Sea).
  • Of the 4,371 species, the maximum of 2,766 species has been reported from deep sea areas of the Arabian Sea, followed by 1,964 species from the Bay of Bengal, 1,396 species from the Andaman Sea, and only 253 species from the Laccadive Sea.

31 species of sea mammals

  • There are 31 species of sea mammals which are found in deep sea ecosystem of Indian waters, including the Critically Endangered Irrawaddy Dolphin.
  • Two other species, the Indo-Pacific Finless Porpoise and the Sperm Whale, are recorded as ‘Vulnerable’ in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classification.
  • The list of mammals includes Cuvier’s Beaked Whale and Short-beaked Common Dolphin, which dive as deep as 8,000 metres below the Earth’s surface.

Marine turtles

  • Out of the seven species of marine turtles found across the world, five species have been recorded from Indian waters.
  • India is known as one of the best and largest breeding grounds for sea turtles, especially for Olive Ridley and Leatherback Turtles, across the world.