Goaltide Daily Current Affairs 2020

Jul 22, 2020

Current Affair 1:
‘Wrap, trap, zap’: New strategy to kill antibiotic resistant bugs

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A new ‘wrap, trap and zap’ strategy that employs microspheres wrapped in graphene oxide — forming a graphene ‘shield’ — helps destroy antibiotic-resistant bacteria and free-floating antibiotic-resistant genes (ARG) produced by them in wastewater treatment plants, showed new research.

Spheres introduced in the wastewater by scientists inactivated multidrug-resistant Escherichia coli bacteria in wastewater. They also degraded the bacteria’s plasmid encoded ARGs in secondary wastewater effluent.

What was the problem?

Superbugs are known to breed in wastewater plants and release extracellular ARGs when they are killed while disinfecting effluent. The ARGs, once discharged from the bacteria, transform indigenous bacteria in the receiving environment, making them resistome receivers. The resistome consists of all the antibiotic resistance genes.

What is the benefit of this innovation?

This innovation will minimize the discharge of extracellular ARGs and mitigate dissemination of antibiotic resistance from wastewater treatment plants. The graphene-wrapped spheres — with cores of bismuth, carbon and oxygen wrapped with nitrogen-doped graphene oxide — kill the bacteria by producing three times the amount of reactive oxygen species (ROS), compared to spheres without the graphene ‘shield’.


Current Affair 2:
Standing Committee advocates DBT of Fertilizer subsidy to the Farmer

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Fertilizer Scam by Rajasthan Government, excess use of Fertilizers was in news recently. So, we will use this an opportunity to present something very important: A parliamentary standing committee on the ‘study of system of fertilizer subsidy’ in March 2020

Read now. So many Prelims questions will be hidden inside it. So, read carefully.

A parliamentary standing committee recently submitted its report on the ‘study of system of fertilizer subsidy’ in March 2020. Among other things, the committee noted that there was a delay in settlement of subsidy dues. It advocated for DBT of fertilizer subsidy to the farmer instead of the manufacturer.

How Fertilizers are made available to farmers?

In India, Fertilizers are made available to the farmers at a subsidized and affordable price to help with increase in yield. The subsidy is passed onto companies manufacturing fertilizers so that farmers get the fertilizers at subsidized MRP. The quantum of subsidy varies with type of fertilizer like Urea, DAP etc. The subsidy is given only to those fertilizers which meet the standards laid down by the government.

How supply is regulated?

  1. The appointment of dealers and retailers who supply fertilizers to farmers is done by companies and licensing of these dealers & retailers is done by the state governments.
  2. Their availability & supply within the state is monitored by the state governments.
  3. The state governments are required to prepare a monthly estimate of the amount of fertilizers required and submit it to the Department of Agriculture which in turns coordinates with Department of Fertilizers.
  4. The Department of Fertilizers prepares the monthly supply plan after consultations with manufacturers and importers to meet the demands projected by the agriculture department.

When subsidy scheme for Fertilizers was introduced?

Subsidy scheme for fertilizers was first introduced by the Indian Government in 1977 through the Retention Price Scheme (RPS) for indigenous nitrogenous fertilizer units. Subsequently, it was extended to phosphatic and other complex fertilizers and Single Super Phosphate.

When Nutrition Based Subsidy Policy was introduced?

In the case of P&K fertilizers, those which contain Phosphorous and Potassium compounds, a Nutrition Based Subsidy (NBS) Policy was implemented since 2010, under which a fixed rate of subsidy, in Rs per Kg basis, on each nutrient- Nitrogen (N), Phosphate (P), Potash (K) and Sulphur (S), is provided by the government each year taking into consideration international prices, exchange rate, and other factors.

City compost is a new category of fertilizers introduced in 2016

A third category of fertilizers, known as City Compost, is given a fixed subsidy of ? 1500 per tonne. This scheme was notified in 2016 to promote the use of city compost made from garbage in cities, that would provide carbon and other primary and secondary nutrients to the soil, in addition to keeping cities clean.

The expenditure on fertilizer subsidy is increasing:

  1. Since 2001-02, there has been a continuous increase in the fertilizer subsidy expenditure. The expenditure on P&K fertilizers, both indigenous and imported was the highest in 2008-09, when the subsidy expenditure also touched the peak since in these 18 years.

  1. While expenditure on P&K fertilizers reduced since then, the use of urea & hence the corresponding subsidy has increased. The NBS was also introduced in 2009. The shift in pricing regime was to ensure that balanced use of fertilizers. Otherwise, the farmers ended up using more fertilizers than the desired quantity.

Delay in subsidy settlement is still a problem

The estimated subsidy expenditure for 2019-20 is ? 83476 crores. By the end of financial year 2017-18, subsidy claims worth ? 19,363 crores were pending and by the end of 2018-19, an amount of ? 30,244 was outstanding, higher than the previous year. As per the existing policy guidelines, DBT claims should be settled within 7 working days from the date of submission of the claims. However, there is no time limit mentioned for settlement of non-DBT claims.

Usage of fertilizers in India is much higher than desired levels

  1. As per the standing committee report on fertilizers subsidy submitted in the Lok Sabha in March 2020, the consumption of fertilizers is much higher compared to the desired ratio. Although the desired consumption in case of NPK fertilizers is 4:2:1, the usage is (6.7):(2.4):1.
  2. It has also been reported that the consumption in states like Punjab and Haryana where agriculture is dominant, the consumption ratio was as high as (31.4): 8:1 and (27.7) :(6.1):1 respectively.

Conclusion report of Committee:

  1. Parliamentary standing committee advocates DBT on fertilizer subsidy directly to the farmer.
  2. Furthermore, the standing committee observed that manufacturers did not produce efficiently, and that the government had to bear the expense of this inefficiency. As a measure to reduce the overuse by farmers and to push manufacturers to take up more efficient production methods, the standing committee has recommended that the subsidy be directly given to farmers by depositing the amount directly into their accounts on producing the necessary purchase vouchers.
  3. The committee has further advised the government to reduce the expenditure on fertilizer subsidy by making energy norms stringent and modernizing manufacturing plants.
  4.  It was also recommended that subsidy amounts should be cleared within a limited period of time to put an end to the delay in settlement.

Also remember, Fertilizers are included in the Essential Commodities Act, 1955


Current Affair 3:
What’s Behind China’s Expansion of Its Territorial Dispute with Bhutan?

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We will mention here three important reasons:

  1. First, the purported eastern sector dispute over the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary, in geographic terms, would be the single largest tranche (part) of disputed territory across all sectors in the China-Bhutan context, representing about 11 percent of the territory currently administered by the Bhutanese government.


  1. Second, the territory in question abuts (have a common boundary with) the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which is itself claimed in its near entirety as part of Tibet. Not only is this the case, but the Sakteng area specifically borders Arunachal’s western Tawang region, which China has particularly prioritized in negotiations with India. Given the ongoing Sino-Indian tensions in the western sector of their border in Ladakh, the timing of the revelation of this “new” dispute with Bhutan will likely be seen as coercive by India.
  2. Third, given that a 25th round of China-Bhutan talks (delayed due to coronavirus) has yet to convene after the 2017 Dokhlam standoff, the purpose of opening this expansive claim to more than 10 percent of sovereign Bhutanese territory may be primarily intended to coerce (to do something by using force or threats) Bhutan into making concessions in other areas, such as Dokhlam, on terms favorable to China.
  3. Given the special relationship between India and Bhutan, as well, Chinese pressure on Bhutan may be designed to test the relationship between New Delhi and Thimphu.

These three points will always be used and remembered by you while explaining China and Bhutan dispute and its consequence in India. We have to wait for further updates to see how talks proceed between China and Bhutan.

Current Affair 4:
What are the different types of tests being used in India for COVID-19 detection?

India has so far conducted around 1.45 crore COVID-19 tests with the number of daily tests around 3 lakh.  However, India’s tests per million continue to be among the lowest in the world, because of the huge population of over 1.3 billion. There has been a significant improvement over the past two months in the number of daily tests.


Across the world, different countries are using varied testing strategies and different types of tests.  India is also using multiple types of tests to detect COVID-19 among suspect cases.  Here is a detailed look at the different types of approved tests being carried out in India for COVID-19 detection.

RT-PCR Tests

RT-PCR Tests are the standard tests being conducted in India for detecting cases of COVID-19. Even across the world, RT-PCR is the most used test. RT-PCR Test implies ‘Reverse Transcription – Polymerase Chain Reaction’ test.

In this test Nasal & Throat Swabs are used to detect the presence of the virus. RT-PCR tests help in early detection of COVID-19 as this test detects the RNA of the virus, which is present in the body before the formation of any antibodies or any visible symptoms. A process called ‘Reverse transcription’ is used to convert RNA to DNA , before detecting the virus.

TrueNat & CBNAAT tests

TrueNat tests have a quick turnaround time of around 60 minutes. These are commonly used for detection of Tuberculosis and HIV. TrueNat is developed by an Indian firm MolBio Diagnostics’ Pvt ltd.  On 19 May 2020, ICMR approved the use of TrueNat testing for COVID-19. The working principle of TrueNat tests is same as that of RT-PCR but uses a smaller kit. However, the challenge with these tests is that that only 1-4 samples can be run in one go. This restricts the maximum number of tests that can be conducted to around 24-48 samples per day.

Rapid Point-of-Care (PoC) Antigen Detection Test

Rapid Antigen detection tests also lookout for virus similar to that of RT-PCR tests. On 14 June 2020, ICMR issued an advisory on the use of Antigen tests for detection of COVID-19. There is no reliable antigen test across the world. The antigen test approved by ICMR is a point-of-care test, performed outside the conventional laboratory setting and is used to quickly obtain the results.

Standard Q COVID-19 Ag detection kit developed by SD Biosensor; a South Korea based company is approved by ICMR. The company has a manufacturing unit in Manesar, Gurugram, India.

IgG Antibody test for COVID-19

IgG Antibody test is being used only for the purpose of surveillance and not for diagnosis. IgG antibodies generally start to appear after two weeks of onset of infection once the individual has recovered after infection. These antibodies are proteins produced by the body and are used by the immune system to neutralize the viruses. Therefore, the IgG test is not useful in detecting acute infection. However, ICMR has advised the use of these tests for.

  1. Sero surveys to understand the proportion of population that is exposed to the infection. Relevant public health interventions can be planned for prevention and control of the infection based on the level of seroprevalence of the infection.
  1. Survey in high risk or vulnerable population to know who has been infected in the past and has since recovered.

Unlike RT-PCR tests, the antibody tests require blood samples to identify antibodies for coronavirus.


Current Affair 5:
MANODARPAN: Mental Health Initiative

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Recently, the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) has launched the 'Manodarpan' initiative under Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan. It is aimed to provide psychosocial support to students, family members and teachers for their mental health and well-being during the times of Covid-19.


The platform includes a national toll-free helpline for students of schools, universities and colleges, which will be manned by a pool of experienced counsellors, psychologists and mental health professionals. It also has a website, a national database of counsellors which will host an interactive online chat platform, advisories and tips through webinars and other resources.


  1. It would act as an element of strengthening human capital and increasing productivity for the education sector in the wake of covid-19.
  2. Covid 19 lockdown had led to forced close down of schools and colleges. Therefore, it would help children as well as their parents in facing tense situations and its effects on academics.

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