Current Affairs May 8

AYUSH 64 & Kabasura Kudineer

Why in News?

  • In a concerted response to the second surge of COVID-19 infection in the country, Ministry of Ayush is launching a massive nationwide campaign to distribute its proven poly herbal Ayurvadic drugs AYUSH 64 and Sidha drug Kabasura Kudineer for the benefit of the vast majority of out of hospital COVID patients.
  • The multi stakeholder campaign will ensure that medicines reach the needy in a transparent and efficient manner. The main collaborator in the campaign is Sewa Bharati.
  • A comprehensive strategy of distribution has been chalked out and the role out will unfold in a phased manner, utilising the wide network of various institutions working under the aegis of the ministry and this will be supported by the countrywide network of Sewa Bharati.
  • The Ministry has taken several initiatives and setup an Interdisciplinary AYUSH Research and Development Task Force involving experts from diverse fields to formulate and develop strategies for control and mitigation of COVID 19.
  • AYUSH-64, an Ayurvedic formulation developed by the Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences (CCRAS)and Kabasura Kudineer, a classical Siddha formulation.
  • AYUSH-64 is recommended in National Clinical Management Protocol based on Ayurveda and Yoga which is vetted by National Task Force on COVID Management of ICMR and Guidelines for Ayurveda Practitioners for COVID-19 Patients in Home Isolation.
  • Kabasura Kudineer is included in Guidelines for Siddha Practitioners for COVID 19, Ministry of Ayush Govt. of India.




National Financial Reporting Authority

Why in News?

  • The National Financial Reporting Authority is a regulatory body set up under Section 132 of the Companies Act to oversee compliance with Accounting and Auditing Standards by companies that can be described as Public Interest Entities (PIEs). This group includes all listed companies, and large unlisted companies.


  • To discharge this mandate, NFRA is in the process of creating a verified and accurate database of companies and auditors that come under the regulatory ambit of NFRA.
  • Establishment of this data base involves critical steps like identification and verification of the primary data source, and reconciliation of data (such as Company Identification Number (CIN) which is dynamic) from different sources.
  • In this regard the NFRA has been engaging with the Corporate Data Management (CDM) division of Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) and three recognised stock exchanges in India.




India-UK virtual summit strengthens STI cooperation

Why in News?

  • The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, and the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed on a common vision of a new and transformational Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between the UK and India, and adopted an ambitious India-UK Roadmap to 2030 to steer cooperation for the next 10 years.
  • They welcomed the signing of the new UK-India MoU on Telecommunications/ICT and the Joint Declaration of Intent on Digital and Technology, the establishment of new high-level dialogues on tech, new joint rapid research investment into Covid19, a new partnership to support zoonotic research, new investment to advance understanding of weather and climate science, and the continuation of the UK-India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI).

Some of the key points to strengthen STI cooperation between two countries are:

  1. Enhance cooperation between India and the UK on strengthening the role of women in STEMM at schools, universities, and research institutions and creating an enabling environment for equal participation of women in STEM disciplines through collaboration on new initiatives like Gender Advancement for Transforming Institutions (GATI) project.
  2. Develop collaborations between Industry, Academia and the Government to foster innovation among school students by focusing on teacher training, mentoring and sharing of global best practices through initiatives like the India Innovation Competency Enhancement Program (IICEP).
  3. Build on the two countries’ existing bilateral research, science and innovation infrastructure and governmental relationships to continue to support high-quality, high-impact research and innovation through joint processes. Position the UK and India as mutual partners of choice and a force for good in the world in areas of shared priority, including health, the circular economy, climate, clean energy, urban development and engineering healthier environments, waste-to-wealth, manufacturing, cyber physical systems, space and related research.
  4. Forge partnership across the pipeline of research and innovation activity, from basic research to applied and interdisciplinary research and through to translation and commercialisation across government departments to optimise impact, utilize expertise and networks and minimise duplication.
  5. Leverage and build on existing, long-standing bilateral partnerships such as on education, research and innovation, to stimulate a joint pipeline of talent, excellent researchers and early-career innovators and explore new opportunities for student and researchers exchanges by establishing joint centres and facilitating access to state-of-the-art facilities.
  6. Work together to share knowledge and expertise regarding artificial intelligence, scientific support to policies and regulatory aspects including ethics, and promote a dialogue in research and innovation. Through Tech Summits, bring together tech innovators, scientists, entrepreneurs and policy makers to work together on challenges including the norms and governance of future tech under the cross-cutting theme of ‘data’.
  7. Grow programmes such as the Fast Track Start-Up Fund to nurture innovation led, sustainable growth and jobs, and tech solutions that benefit both countries. Explore partnerships with joint investment to enable the growth of technology-enabled innovative businesses and increase the number of start-ups and MSMEs growing and scaling-up internationally, for example in relation to climate and the environment, med tech devices, industrial biotech and agriculture, and sustainable development, helping to achieve the Global Goals by 2030.




How U.S. plans to counter China’s influence in technology

  • China’s growing influence in science and technology is a thorn in the flesh for the U.S. It is one of the reasons why the Trump administration went against the Chinese smartphone maker Huawei. It slapped sanctions on the 5G equipment maker, and called for its CFO Meng Wanzhou’s arrest in 2018.
  • Several other prominent countries, including the U.K. and Sweden, banned Huawei from supplying 5G equipment to them, citing national security concerns. The U.S. is continuing to pressure its allies to keep Huawei from selling their next generation wireless technology to them.
  • At the centre of this growing scepticism against one of the largest mobile device makers is a perception that Huawei is closely linked to the Chinese government, and as a result its equipment could be used by Beijing to spy on foreign governments. Huawei rejects these charges by the U.S. and its allies.

“Endless Frontiers”

  • The toolkit U.S. plans to use now is the “Endless Frontiers” bill.
  • The bill seeks to widen the country’s science foundation by including technological research and calling for a centre for technology to be set up within the foundation.
  • The directorate will work to strengthen U.S.’s leadership in emerging technology like artificial intelligence, high-performance computing, and advanced manufacturing.
  • The legislative proposal seeking to counter China’s tech dominance will allocate about $110 billion toward technology research.
  • The bill will authorise $100 billion to be invested over the next five years in basic and advanced research, including semiconductors, quantum computing, and biotechnology. Another $10 billion will be earmarked to set up 10 technological hubs and create a crisis-response programme to address supply chain issues facing the semiconductor industry.




SEBI notifies relaxed rules for listing start-ups

  • With an aim to boost listing of start-ups, markets regulator SEBI has notified a slew of relaxations to norms, including reducing holding period for pre-issue capital and allowing discretionary allotment to eligible investors.
  • The changes have been made to the framework for listing on the Innovators Growth Platform (IGP).
  • Other relaxations include easing delisting requirements and relaxation in guidelines for migrating to main board.
  • This is aimed at making the platform more accessible to companies in view of the evolving start-up ecosystem.
  • The regulator has reduced the period of holding of 25 % of pre-issue capital of the issuer company by eligible investors to one year from the current requirement of two years.
  • The term ‘Accredited Investor’ for the purpose of IGP is renamed as ‘Innovators Growth Platform Investors’.
  • Such investor’s pre-issue shareholding would be considered for entire 25 % of the pre-issue capital of the issuer company against the present limit of only 10 %.
  • On the lines of provisions for listing of companies on the main board, the issuer company on the IGP would be allowed to allocate up to 60 % of the issue size on a discretionary basis prior to issue opening for subscription to eligible investors with a lock in of 30 days on such shares.
  • This is subject to that the price of the specified securities offered to eligible investors would not be lower than the price offered to other applicants and eligible investors would make an application of a value of at least ₹50 lakh.
  • Currently, the issuer company is not permitted to make discretionary allotment.
  • In line with the provisions of main board IPO, issuer companies which have issued superior voting rights (SR) equity shares to promoters and founders will be allowed to do listing under IGP framework.
  • the threshold trigger for open offer has been relaxed from the existing 25 % to 49 %.
  • However, irrespective of acquisition or holding of shares or voting rights in a target company, any change in control directly or indirectly over target company will trigger open offer.
  • An issuer company whose specified securities are traded on the IGP pursuant to an initial public offer may exit from the platform, if such an exit is approved by the board of directors of the company in its meeting.
  • Such an exit is approved by the shareholders of the company by a special resolution passed through postal ballot or e-voting, after disclosure of all material facts in the explanatory statement sent to the shareholders in relation to such resolution.
  • The delisting would be considered successful if the post offer acquirer or promoter shareholding, taken together with the shares tendered and accepted, reaches 75 % of the total issued shares of that class; and at least 50 % shares of the public shareholders are tendered and accepted.
  • Currently, for a company not satisfying the conditions of profitability, net assets, net worth among others for migration from IGP to main board requires a company to have 75 % of its capital held by QIBs as on date of application for migration. This requirement has now been reduced to 50 %.
  • To give effect to this, Sebi has amended ICDR (Issue of Capital and Disclosure Requirements) Regulation and SAST (Substantial Acquisition of Shares and Takeovers) norms.
  • The new rules has become effective from May 5, as per the notifications.
  • In 2015, SEBI introduced the Institutional Trading Platform (ITP) with a view to facilitate listing of new age start-ups. However, the ITP framework failed to evince interest. Last year, Sebi renamed it as the Innovators Growth Platform.




Coronavirus Variants

The newer variants

  • Scientists have also been examining whether biological changes in the virus had anything to do with the unprecedented surge in infections in the last two months. Viruses mutate, and mutations that help it survive and circulate better are selected.
  • In the last few months, several new variants of the virus have been found to be circulating in the Indian population.
  • A few of these have greater transmissibility, meaning they have a better ability to infect human beings.
  • One particular variant, called B.1.617, first found in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, has received a lot of attention because of its ability to transmit at a faster rate and, possibly, also to evade the immune response.
  • Other fast-transmitting variants, such as the one that first emerged in the United Kingdom, called B 1.1.7, that has been found to be present in large numbers in northern India, could also be the reasons for the rapid rise in cases.
  • While scientists acknowledge that these new variants could have contributed to the surge in cases, they have reluctant to say that these are the main cause for the ferocity of the second wave.

Variants under watch

  • The government has already classified the B.1.617 as a ‘variant of concern’ though that tag is still to be attached to it officially by the World Health Organization.
  • This particular variant has undergone further mutations, and at least three different sub-variants, named B.1.617.1, B.1.617.2 and B.1.617.3, are supposed to have the potential to spread even faster, and cause bigger damage than the parent variant.




Non-steroidal inflammatory drugs

Why in News?

  • The use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, does not lead to higher rates of death or severe disease in patients who are hospitalised with Covid-19, according to a new observational study.


  • NSAIDs are common treatments for acute pain and rheumatological diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthrosis.
  • Early in the pandemic, there was debate on whether the use of such drugs increased the severity of Covid-19, which led to urgent calls for investigations.
  • NSAIDs are commonly used to treat people all over the world for a range of conditions, from minor aches and pains to chronic conditions such as arthritis and cardiovascular disease.





What is the Starship?

  • Designed by SpaceX, Starship is a spacecraft and super-heavy booster rocket meant to act as a reusable transportation system for crew and cargo to the Earth’s orbit, Moon and Mars. SpaceX has described Starship as “the world’s most powerful launch vehicle” with an ability to carry over 100 metric tonnes to the Earth’s orbit.
  • Starship has been under development since 2012 and is a part of Space X’s central mission to make interplanetary travel accessible and affordable and to become the first private company to do so.
  • Therefore, the company is working on building a fleet of reusable launch vehicles, capable of carrying humans to Mars and other destinations in the solar system.
  • Following the commercial model, a rapidly reusable space launch vehicle could reduce the cost of travelling to space by a hundredfold.

What is it capable of doing?

  • In time to come, the Starship system is expected to replace SpaceX’s partially reusable Falcon rockets that are currently operational.
  • Starship can deliver satellites further and at lower marginal costs than Falcon vehicles and it can ferry both cargo and crew to the International Space Station (ISS).
  • Once developed, Starship is also expected to help carry large amounts of cargo to the Moon, for human spaceflight development and research.
  • Beyond the Moon, the spacecraft is being designed for carrying crew and cargo for interplanetary missions as well.
  • The Starship spacecraft is expected to enter Mars’s atmosphere at a speed of 7.5 km per second and will be designed to withstand multiple entries.
  • While no human being has set foot on Mars yet, the planet continues to intrigue scientists and researchers because of the possibility that life existed there once.
  • SpaceX is planning its first cargo mission to the red planet by 2022 and by 2024, the company wants to fly four ships including two cargo and two crewed ones to Mars.

What is NASA’s Artemis mission?

  • Last month, NASA chose SpaceX to build a lander for its Artemis programme, which plans to send humans to the Moon in this decade.
  • The vehicle, which is based on Starship, will carry the next man and the first woman to land on the Moon. The Artemis programme, initiated by the administration of former President Donald Trump, planned to do this in 2024, but the plans were postponed because of a shortfall in funding.
  • With the Artemis programme, NASA aims to demonstrate new technologies, capabilities and business approaches that will ultimately be needed for the future exploration of Mars.




Foaming a Runway

Why in News?

  • A medical flight which was travelling from Bagdogra in West Bengal to Mumbai with a Covid-19 patient onboard made an emergency belly landing at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai after a wheel of the aircraft separated from its body and fell on the ground at Nagpur airport during take-off after it had made a stop for refuelling.
  • In something quite unique in India, Mumbai airport officials sprayed foam on the runway to prevent fire as the Beechcraft VT-JIL aircraft made a belly landing.

What is a foam path?

  • A foam path is an aviation safety practice of spreading a layer of fire suppression foam on an airport runway prior to an emergency landing.
  • Following a crash-landing, liquids leaking from the aircraft, which are not yet burning, start evaporating, thereby resulting in forming an air-vapour mixture that is flammable or even highly explosive.
  • In such cases, extinguishing foam is used preventively and the liquid is covered with a foam carpet as a vapor barrier.
  • Airport fire brigades create a foam carpet in order to secure an emergency landing if the landing gear of an aircraft is not extended or is unstable. This is done in order to suppress sparking and burning of any aircraft metals due to friction with the runway surface.

The concerns surrounding use of foam paths

  • Although originally it was thought that foam paths would prevent fires, the practice is now discouraged. The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recommended foam paths for emergency landings in around 1966, but withdrew that recommendation in 1987, although not barring its use.
  • In 2002, a circular recommended against using pre-foaming except in certain circumstances.
  • Explaining the operational issues related to using foam paths, the FAA stated that reliability of information on the landing techniques to be used relating to wind and visibility conditions, pilot experience and skill, visual and radio aids available and the aircraft operational problems should be considered before using the technique.
  • The application of foam show that no significant reduction is achieved in the risk of fire or in the extent of damage by the foaming of runways.
  • Also, from all that is known of the fire suppression qualities of foam and the scale research tests, it is clear that a foamed runway would have no appreciable effect on the fire hazard of fuel vapours in the atmosphere over the foam.
  • The International Civil Aviation Organization, too, does not recommend foaming the runway in its Airport Services Manual, stating that the effectiveness of runway foaming is not fully substantiated by the real evidence of operational incident studies.



COVID-19 has hit India’s urban poor more than those in villages

  • The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has left the urban poor in India poorer, more hungry and with less nutrition than their rural counterparts, a recent report has claimed.
  • Passage to the city had usually helped the urban poor in the country beat hunger.
  • A large section of rural residents could cushion the blow of pandemic-driven economic disruption due to foodgrain via the public distribution system (PDS). The urban poor’s access to such ration, however, was minimal, according to the report compiled by Hunger Watch.
  • Hunger Watch is a loose collection of social groups and movements. It came together for a periodic study of the actual status of hunger, food access and livelihood security among various disadvantaged populations in the wake of the country-wide lockdown in March 2020.
  • The report, recently released, showed that on average, urban respondents reported a 15 percentage point worse condition than their rural counterparts across all important parameters.
  • Incomes reduced by half or a quarter for more than half the urban respondents while it was a little over one-third for rural respondents. The consumption of grains and pulses were at least 12 percentage points lower for urban respondents.
  • Similarly, a decline in nutritional quality and quantity was more among the urban respondents as was the need to borrow money for buying food.
  • Some 54 per cent urban respondents had to borrow money for food. This was 16 per cent lower for rural respondents. Some 45 per cent rural respondents had to skip a meal in October 2020; nearly two-thirds of the urban respondents had to do so in the same month.
  • The social security schemes also had a relatively better coverage among the rural poor as rural areas had better access to PDS rations. A larger proportion of households in urban areas did not have access to ration cards.
  • This calls for special attention on social protection measures including schemes for provision of subsidised food and employment guarantee in urban areas.
  • Things were much worse for socially vulnerable groups such as households headed by single women, households with people having disabilities, transgender people and old persons without caregivers.
  • For instance, 58 per cent of the older people without caregivers had to go to sleep at night sometimes without a meal. This was the case with 56 per cent of households headed by single women and 44 per cent of households with disabled persons.
  • The survey found that 27 per cent of the respondents had to go to bed without eating “sometimes” and about one in twenty had to go to bed without eating “often” in October, 2020.
  • Some 56 per cent of the respondents “never” had to skip meals before. There is a 10 percentage point increase in the number of people who had to skip some meal in the month preceding the survey period.
  • The additional support provided for poor and informal sector workers introduced as part of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana as well as the Atmanirbhar Bharat package, ended in October 2020.
  • It was only recently announced again for two months in the wake of lockdown-like restrictions in several states, but that too only for ration card holders.
  • The food insecurity has prompted more people to enter the labour force. The Hunger Watch survey found a staggering 55 per cent increase in the labour force among the respondents.
  • This included about 15 per cent of respondents who had to enter the labour market and about 40 per cent who were seeking work but had not got employment yet. It also noted a silent rise in child labour as well.




Salmonella Vaccine

  • Salmonella can infect people through contaminated food, water and animals. According to the World Health Organization, non-typhoidal salmonella infection affects more than 95 million people globally each year, leading to an estimated 2 million deaths annually.
  • There is no approved vaccine for salmonella in humans, and some strains are antibiotic-resistant.
  • In recent study scientists demonstrate a novel approach to triggering immunity against salmonella.
  • “Cells communicate with each other through particles called extracellular vesicles or EVs. Think of these like molecular telephones that let cells talk to each other. Researchers wanted to know if some of those messages included information related to immune response”.
  • Host EVs have not been previously studied in the context of fighting enteric bacterial infections, so that is part of what makes researchers approach new and adds to the field.
  • A specific type of EVs called exosomes were part of the immune response against salmonella and may one day hold the key to developing a vaccine.
  • To test their idea, the research team took exosomes from white blood cells infected with salmonella. Inside those exosomes, which measure just a few dozen nanometers across, they found salmonella antigens, which are bits of salmonella protein known to trigger an immune response.
  • Next, the researchers wanted to know if these exosomes might function as a vaccine, helping the body build up its defenses against salmonella.
  • The researchers found that after they introduced the exosomes containing salmonella antigens, the exosomes localized to tissues that produce mucous, activating specific cells at these sites.
  • Weeks later, mice developed antibodies against salmonella and specific cellular immune responses, which typically target this bacterium for elimination.
  • There are two types of immune responses generated when our bodies encounter a pathogen. The first one is called innate immunity, which is an immediate response to an infection, but it is also less specific. The other response is called adaptive immunity, and this protective response is specifically tailored to a given pathogen, but it also takes longer to develop.
  • Exosomes generated by infected white blood cells stimulated both of these responses in animals.

What is Salmonellosis?

  • The salmonella bacteria resides in animals.
  • When it enters a human body it causes salmonellosis, an infection that attacks the intestine, and can cause diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fever, vomiting, bleeding in stool and nausea.
  • The symptoms of the infection last anywhere between 2 and 7 days.
  • However, bowel function could sometimes takes months before returning to normalcy. In some cases, it spreads the infection from the intestine to the blood stream.
  • The infection hits children, below the age of five, and senior citizens the worst. The good news is less than 1 per cent of infected people succumb to the infection.
  • Salmonella can transmit to humans through contaminated water or food.