Current based PRELIMS QUESTION 1 June 2020
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1. Consider the following statements regarding the Coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19).
1. COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), a virus closely related to the SARS virus.
2. WHO declared Covid-19 infections as a public health emergency of international concern and later called it a pandemic.
3. Coronavirus consists of a DNA genome and is one of the largest in the DNA family.
Which of the statement(s) given above is/are correct?
(a) 2 and 3 only
(b) 1 and 2 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3
Official names have been announced for the virus responsible for COVID-19 (previously known as “2019 novel coronavirus”) and the disease it causes by WHO.
The official names are:
Disease- Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)
Virus-Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2)
Naming of Viruses and Diseases:
Viruses, and the diseases they cause, often have different names. For example, HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.
People often know the name of a disease, such as measles, but not the name of the virus that causes it (Rubeola).
Viruses are named based on their nucleic acid i.e. genetic structure to facilitate the development of diagnostic tests, vaccines and medicines. Virologists and the wider scientific community do this work, so viruses are named by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV).
Diseases are named to enable discussion on disease prevention, spread, transmissibility, severity and treatment.
Human disease preparedness and response is WHO’s role, so diseases are officially named by WHO in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD).
ICTV announced “Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2)” as the name of the new virus on 11 February 2020.
This name was chosen because the virus is genetically related to the coronavirus responsible for the SARS outbreak of 2003.
While related, the two viruses are different.
WHO announced “COVID-19” as the name of this new disease on 11 February 2020, following guidelines previously developed with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
Coronaviruses belong to a family of viruses called Coronaviridae and order Nidovirales. Coronaviruses get their name from their crown-like shape (corona is Latin for crown).
They are found in animals and birds and are zoonotic – as they are transmitted between animals and people.
Some types of coronavirus are dangerous for humans and result in severe diseases such as respiratory syndromes (MERS – Middle East Respiratory Syndrome and SARS – Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome).
Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19)
A new strain of the coronavirus that has not been identified previously is called a novel coronavirus (nCov).
Coronavirus disease 2019 is an infectious disease caused by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), a virus closely related to the SARS virus.
The 2019-nCov has been given the official name as COVID-19.
WHO declared Covid-19 infections as a public health emergency of international concern and later called it a pandemic.
Though the novel coronavirus is highly infectious and spreads rapidly, the death rate is low – only about 3.7%. However, because of the possibility of a global-scale infection, all possible steps should be taken to prevent the fast spreading of the outbreak. Most people recover from the Covid-19 infection within 28 days, when proper supportive care is given.
Viruses and Viral Infections
Viruses are found everywhere and their origins are unclear. Viruses are neither dead nor alive, but to be considered inhabiting ‘the edge of life’. They have a simple structure – a genetic material, DNA or RNA, surrounded by a protein called the capsid. Although viruses have genes, they don’t have a cellular structure and hence viruses cannot reproduce without infecting a cell. Once inside, they assemble inside the cell and using the machinery of the host cell they produce copies of themselves. Release of the virus from the host cell causes bursting of its membrane and cell wall, thus killing the cell.
Broadly viruses can be classified as DNA virus and RNA virus based on the genetic material within them. A DNA virus enters the nucleus of the host cell and using the cell’s enzymes, it’ll replicate the viral DNA. An RNA virus will inject the RNA into the cytoplasm (the material inside a living cell excluding the nucleus) to synthesize proteins and form replica viruses. Alternately the RNA can be converted to DNA using a process called reverse transcription. This DNA will be integrated with that of the host DNA in a process similar to a DNA virus.
Coronavirus consists of an RNA genome and is one of the largest in the RNA family. Coronaviruses are enveloped and contain single-stranded positive-sense RNA. The RNA attaches to the host cell’s ribosome for translation. Positive sense RNA can function as messenger RNA, meaning that viral RNA sequence may be directly translated into the desired viral proteins.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Origin and Transmission
Coronaviruses originate in animals like camels and bats and are zoonotic diseases as it passes from animals to humans occasionally.
The source of a zoonotic disease is called reservoir species. (For SARS, the reservoir species was identified as bats).
The first known case of COVID-19 was reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019 and was traced to an animal market in the city.
Research is ongoing on how COVID-19 spreads. However, as per WHO, the disease spreads in humans via exposure to respiratory secretions – the small droplets from the nose or mouth of an infected person – either directly or indirectly.
The basic reproduction number (R_0) is a measure of transmissibility that aims to describe the average number of people a new case will infect. For COVID-19, WHO estimates R_0 = 1.4 to 2.5. However, many researchers think this figure is under-estimated.
Compared to earlier outbreaks of SARS and MERS, COVID-19 has a greater global spread and researchers think that mutation in the virus strain is enabling it to be more efficiently transmitted.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Clinical Manifestations
In humans, it affects the upper respiratory tract with varying severity.
Respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to bronchiolitis. Pneumonia, gastroenteritis and neurological disorders can also occur. Other symptoms headache, chills, sore throat and cough.
The incubation period is from 2 to 5 days and symptoms have a range of 3 to 18 days.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Prevention and Treatment
No vaccine is currently available to prevent COVID-19.
Avoiding exposure is the only way for prevention. Preventive actions include:
Avoiding close contact with infected people.
Avoiding touching eyes, nose, and mouth.
Staying home when infected and using a facemask.
Covering while coughing or sneezing.
Disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces.
No specific antiviral treatment is recommended for COVID-19. Infected people should receive supportive care based on symptoms and for severe cases; treatment should support vital organ functions.
Other Human Coronaviruses
Two other human coronaviruses, MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV were previously identified.
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS): MERS cases were reported mainly in the Arabian Peninsula. Symptoms usually include fever, cough, and shortness of breath which often progress to pneumonia. About 3 or 4 out of every 10 patients reported with MERS have died.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS): It is believed that the 2003 SARS epidemic started when the virus spread from small mammals in China. SARS symptoms often included fever, chills and bodyaches which usually progressed to severe pneumonia and breathing difficulty. SARS is more deadly but much less infectious than COVID-19. There have been no outbreaks of SARS anywhere in the world since 2003.
Global Impact of Novel Coronavirus Covid-19
A ‘Pandemic’ is an epidemic that has spread worldwide and is no longer confined to a particular region. COVID-19 is fast approaching pandemic status with many countries implementing pandemic measures.
2. Consider the following statement regarding the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
1. Assessment and evaluation of impacts and development of alternatives, to predict and identify the likely environmental impacts of a project.
2. EIA report, including an environmental management plan (EMP), and a non-technical summary for the general audience.
3. Monitoring, compliance, enforcement and environmental auditing for the predicted impacts and proposed mitigation measures.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3
Light New environment impact norm cuts time for public hearing
A set of key updates to India’s Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Act proposes to reduce the time given to people to air objections.
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
EIA is a process of evaluating the likely environmental impacts of a proposed project or development, taking into account inter-related socio-economic, cultural and human-health impacts, both beneficial and adverse. EIA is basically a tool used to assess the positive and negative environmental, economic and social impacts of a project. This is used to predict the environmental impacts of a project in the pre-planning stage itself so that decisions can be taken to reduce the adverse impacts.
Objectives of EIA
1. Identifying, predicting and evaluating economic, environmental and social impacts of development activities.
2. Providing information on the environmental consequences for decision making.
3. Promoting environmentally sound and suitable development by identifying appropriate alternatives and mitigation measures.
The EIA process or stages is described below:
1. Screening: this stage decides which projects a full or partial assessment need study.
2. Scoping: this stage decides which impacts are necessary to be assessed. This is done based on legal requirements, international conventions, expert knowledge and public engagement. This stage also finds out alternate solutions that avoid or at least reduce the adverse impacts of the project. Alternate designs or sites that avoid or mitigate impact are investigated.
3. Assessment & evaluation of impacts and development of alternatives: this stage predicts and identifies the environmental impacts of the proposed project and also elaborates on the alternatives.
4. EIA Report: in this reporting stage, an environmental management plan (EMP) and also a non-technical summary of the project’s impact is prepared for the general public. This report is also called the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
5. Decision making: the decision on whether the project is to be given approval or not and if it is to be given, under what conditions.
6. Monitoring, compliance, enforcement and environmental auditing: monitoring whether the predicted impacts and the mitigation efforts happen as per the EMP.
EIA Act is the law that governs how the threat posed by large infrastructure projects to the environment ought to be evaluated.
It is a process of evaluating the likely environmental impacts of a proposed project or development, taking into account inter-related socio-economic, cultural and human-health impacts, both beneficial and adverse.
EIA is basically a tool used to assess the positive and negative environmental, economic and social impacts of a project. This is used to predict the environmental impacts of a project in the pre-planning stage itself so that decisions can be taken to reduce the adverse impacts.
Public Hearing Process in the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Act:
The public hearing process is considered a key component of the EIA.
An organisation has to submit a detailed plan, as part of the EIA process that details the nature, need, potential impact and remedial measures, if their proposed infrastructure project threatens to significantly impact a region.
As part of the process, representatives of the company, State and district administration representatives must discuss the environment impact management plan, record objections from residents of the region and submit these to a committee of experts, constituted by the Union Environment Ministry, who will then take a holistic view of the comments and the management plan and decide on whether to accord clearance to the project.
While expert committees constituted by the MoEF appraise projects, those below a certain size are appraised by State-level authorities called the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA).
In 2016, the Ministry further delegated the authority to grant clearances for up to five hectares of individual mining lease of minor minerals and 25 hectares in clusters, to the DEIAA, or District Environment Impact Assessment Authority.
Draft EIA notification
The draft EIA notification proposes to be an update to the EIA of 2006.
Over the years, several provisions in the EIA 2006 have been challenged in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and led to the MoEF modifying the rules. The EIA 2019 aims to accommodate all these revisions.
EIA of 2006 specifies a minimum of 30 days for people to respond. The current version of the update, which will likely become law soon, gives a “minimum of 20 days” of notice period.
It also requires that the public-hearing process be wrapped up in 40 days, as opposed to the existing norm of 45 days.
Authorities were earlier mandated to monitor projects for compliance with environmental norms every six months. It has now been proposed to relax the monitoring frequency to once a year.
3. Consider the following statements regarding the Amnesty International (AI).
1. It is a London based Non-Governmental Organisation founded in 1961 by Peter Benenson.
2. It also conducts research, generates action to prevent grave abuses of human rights and demands justice for those whose rights have been violated.
3. The organization was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977 for its “Defence of human dignity against torture” and the United Nations Prize in the field of Human Rights in 1978.
Which of the statement(s) given above is/are correct?
(a) 2 and 3 only
(b) 1 and 2 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3
Amnesty International (AI)
Amnesty International (AI) is a non-governmental organisation formed in July 1961 by Peter Benenson (UK) with an objective to conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights, and to demand justice to those, whose rights have been violated.
It is one of the organisations which work independently without any political ideology, economic interest or religion and also no government is beyond scrutiny.
The organization aims to create a world where every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948. It recognized the fundamental human rights universally for the first time.
It also conducts research, generates action to prevent grave abuses of human rights and demands justice for those whose rights have been violated.
The organization was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977 for its “Defence of human dignity against torture” and the United Nations Prize in the field of Human Rights in 1978.
Working Domain of Amnesty International
Armed conflict: It can be triggered by issues including identity, ethnicity, religion or competition for resources. Women and children are disproportionately affected by armed conflict – they make up 80% of all refugees and displaced people. Rape and other forms of sexual violence are routinely committed during conflict. Amnesty does not take sides in conflicts but document and campaign against human rights abuses and violations of international law, no matter who commits them, or where. And, we support the survivors to demand justice.
Arms control: A global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) became international law on 24 December 2014.The ATT means that every state that has signed-up must now obey strict rules on international arms transfers. This will at last help to stem the flow of weapons that fuel bloody conflicts, atrocities and state repression around the world. It’s rare to get a direct win that will help save thousands of lives, but after relentless lobbying and campaigning since the early-1990s, Amnesty and its partners have done exactly that. The Treaty’s rules are simple – if a country knows that the arms about to be sold will be used for genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes, then they must stop the transfer.
Corporate Responsibility: Amnesty is calls for-
Prevention: all companies should be required by law to take steps to identify, prevent and address human rights abuses (known as due diligence).
Accountability: companies must be held to account for abuses they commit.
Remedy: people whose rights have been abused by companies must be able to access justice and effective remedy.
Protect rights beyond borders: companies operate across borders, so the law must also operate across borders to protect people’s rights.
DEATH PENALTY: It is cruel, inhuman and degrading. Amnesty opposes the death penalty at all times – regardless of who is accused, the crime, guilt or innocence or method of execution. Amnesty working to end executions since 1977, when only 16 countries had abolished the death penalty in law or practice. Today, the number has risen to 140 – nearly two-thirds of countries around the world.
Detention and imprisonment: Amnesty is calling for-
No secret detentions.
No torture or other forms of ill-treatment.
Rapid and regular access to lawyers, doctors and relatives.
Effective legal process so that people can challenge their detention and treatment.
Adequate detention conditions. Including an end to prolonged solitary confinement.
Prompt and independent investigations when someone dies in detention.
Independent Monitoring bodies make regular visits to detention places.
Fair trials within a reasonable time or release.
All prisoners of conscience released without conditions.
Disappearances: If governments genuinely don’t know where people are being held, they need to make more effort to find out. If they do, they must release them, or provide details of where they died then Amnesty work for it.
Discrimination: Amnesty’s work is rooted in the principle of non-discrimination. Working with disadvantaged communities across the world we work to change discriminatory laws and protect people. Sometimes these victories are bittersweet; such as when the Moroccan parliament changed its discriminatory rape law in 2014, meaning rapists can no longer escape punishment by forcing their victims to marry them.
Freedom of expression: Governments pay lip service to ‘free speech’ in almost every constitution in the world, but the reality isn’t so free. Across the world people are thrown into prison – or worse – for speaking out. If human right to seek, receive and share information and ideas, without fear or unlawful interference, is crucial for our education, to develop as individuals, help our communities, access justice, and enjoy all our other rights. Since Amnesty began supported and protected people who speak out – for themselves and for others. It work with journalists, community workers and teachers, trade unionists, people promoting reproductive rights and indigenous people standing up for their land rights.
Indigenous peoples: Amnesty works with Indigenous Peoples to develop urgently needed laws to protect their lands, cultures and livelihoods. At the international level, Indigenous Peoples have made their voices heard and effectively lobbied governments.
International justice: There must be no safe havens, Hence Amnesty work against to those who commit the worst crimes imaginable, can no longer hide.
4. Consider the following statements regarding the Retail inflation.
1. Retail inflation in India recently slowed down to 1%.
2. Retail inflation means the increase in prices of certain products or commodities compared to a base price.
3. In India, it is linked to Consumer Price Index (CPI) which is managed by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs.
4. The inflation experienced at retail level is the actual reflection of the price rise in the country.
Which of the statement(s) given above is/are correct?
(a) 1, 2 and 4 only
(b) 2, and 4 only
(c) 1, 2 and 3 only
(d) All of the above
Retail inflation eases to 6.58%, industrial production quickens
Official data released showed that the Retail inflation based on the Consumer Price Index slowed to 6.58% in February 2020, while the industrial production growth as measured in the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) quickened to 2% in January 2020, amid subdued performance by the manufacturing sector.
The government has mandated the RBI to keep inflation at 4% with a margin of two percentage points on either side.
Retail inflation means the increase in prices of certain products or commodities compared to a base price. In India, retail inflation is linked to Consumer Price Index (CPI) which is managed by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.
Inflation at Retail Level (Consumer Level)
Consumer often directly buys from retailer. So the inflation experienced at retail shops is the actual reflection of the price rise in the country. It also shows the cost of living better.
In India, the index which shows the inflation rate at retail level is known as Consumer Price Index (CPI). CPI is based on 260 commodities, but includes certain services too.
There were four Consumer Price Indices covering different socio-economic groups in the economy. These four indices were Consumer Price Index for Industrial Workers (CPI-IW); Consumer Price Index for Agricultural Labourers (CPI-AL); Consumer Price Index for Rural Labourers (CPI -RL) and Consumer Price Index for Urban Non-Manual Employees (CPI-UNME).
CPI is now using a new series on the base 2010=100 for all-India and States/UTs separately for rural, urban and combined. The Central Statistics Office (CSO), Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation releases Consumer Price Indices (CPI).
CPI is based on retail prices and this index is used to calculate the Dearness Allowance (DA) for government employees.
5. Consider the following statements regarding the Basel-III Norms.
1. Basel-III is an internationally agreed set of measures developed by the Basel Committee on Bank Supervision (BCBS) released in December, 1999.
2. The capital norms recommend Capital Adequacy ratio (CAR) be increased to 8 per cent internationally, while in India it is 9 per cent.
3. The guidelines aim to promote a more resilient banking system by focusing on four vital banking parameters viz. capital, leverage, funding and liquidity.
Which of the following statements is/are correct?
(a) 2 and 3 only
(b) 1 and 2 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3
Basel III Norms in India
Basel III or Basel 3 released in December, 2010 is the third in the series of Basel Accords. These accords deal with risk management aspects for the banking sector.
These Norms to be partially implemented from March 31, 2015 in phases and would be fully implemented as on March 31, 2018.
Basel III or Basel 3 released in December, 2010 is the third in the series of Basel Accords. These accords deal with risk management aspects for the banking sector. So we can say that Basel III is the global regulatory standard on bank capital adequacy, stress testing and market liquidity risk. (Basel I and Basel II are the earlier versions of the same, and were less stringent).
Norms to be implemented from March 31, 2015 in phases and would be fully implemented as on March 31, 2018
What does Basel III is all about?
According to Basel Committee on Banking Supervision “Basel III is a comprehensive set of reform measures, developed by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, to strengthen the regulation, supervision and risk management of the banking sector”. Thus, we can say that Basel III is only a continuation of effort initiated by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision to improve the banking regulatory framework under Basel I and Basel II. This latest Accord now seeks to improve the banking sector’s ability to deal with financial and economic stress, improve risk management and strengthen the banks’ transparency.
What are the objectives / aims of the Basel III measures?
Basel 3 measures aim to:
Improve the banking sector’s ability to absorb ups and downs arising from financial and economic instability
Improve risk management ability and governance of banking sector
Strengthen banks’ transparency and disclosures
Thus we can say that Basel III guidelines are targeted at to improve the ability of banks to withstand periods of economic and financial stress as the new guidelines are more stringent than the earlier requirements for capital and liquidity in the banking sector.
What are the major changes proposed in Basel iii over earlier accords i.e. Basel i and Basel ii?
Better Capital Quality: One of the key elements of Basel 3 is the introduction of much stricter definition of capital. Better quality capital means the higher loss-absorbing capacity. This in turn will mean that banks will be stronger, allowing them to better withstand periods of stress.
Capital Conservation Buffer: Another key feature of Basel iii is that now banks will be required to hold a capital conservation buffer of 2.5%. The aim of asking to build conservation buffer is to ensure that banks maintain a cushion of capital that can be used to absorb losses during periods of financial and economic stress.
Countercyclical Buffer: This is also one of the key elements of Basel III. The countercyclical buffer has been introduced with the objective to increase capital requirements in good times and decrease the same in bad times. The buffer will slow banking activity when it overheats and will encourage lending when times are tough i.e. in bad times. The buffer will range from 0% to 2.5%, consisting of common equity or other fully loss-absorbing capital.
Minimum Common Equity and Tier 1 Capital Requirements: The minimum requirement for common equity, the highest form of loss-absorbing capital, has been raised under Basel III from 2% to 4.5% of total risk-weighted assets. The overall Tier 1 capital requirement, consisting of not only common equity but also other qualifying financial instruments, will also increase from the current minimum of 4% to 6%. Although the minimum total capital requirement will remain at the current 8% level, yet the required total capital will increase to 10.5% when combined with the conservation buffer.
Leverage Ratio: A review of the financial crisis of 2008 has indicted that the value of many assets fell quicker than assumed from historical experience. Thus, now Basel III rules include a leverage ratio to serve as a safety net. A leverage ratio is the relative amount of capital to total assets (not risk-weighted). This aims to put a cap on swelling of leverage in the banking sector on a global basis. 3% leverage ratio of Tier 1 will be tested before a mandatory leverage ratio is introduced in January 2018.
Liquidity Ratios: Under Basel III, a framework for liquidity risk management will be created. A new Liquidity Coverage Ratio (LCR) and Net Stable Funding Ratio (NSFR) are to be introduced in 2015 and 2018, respectively.
Systemically Important Financial Institutions (SIFI): As part of the macro-prudential framework, systemically important banks will be expected to have loss-absorbing capability beyond the Basel III requirements. Options for implementation include capital surcharges, contingent capital and bail-in-debt
How Basel III Norms Will Affect Indian Banks?
The Basel III which is to be implemented by banks in India as per the guidelines issued by RBI from time to time will be challenging task not only for the banks but also for Government of India.
It is estimated that Indian banks will be required to raise Rs 6, 00,000 crores in external capital in next nine years or so i.e. by 2020 (The estimates vary from organisation to organisation). Expansion of capital to this extent will affect the returns on the equity of these banks especially public sector banks. However, only consolation for Indian banks is the fact that historically they have maintained their core and overall capital well in excess of the regulatory minimum.
Introduced in 1988.
Focused almost entirely on credit risk, it defined capital and structure of risk weights for banks.
The minimum capital requirement was fixed at 8% of risk-weighted assets (RWA).
India adopted Basel 1 guidelines in 1999.
Published in 2004.
The guidelines were based on three parameters:
Banks should maintain a minimum capital adequacy requirement of 8% of risk assets.
Banks were needed to develop and use better risk management techniques in monitoring and managing all the three types of risks that is credit and increased disclosure requirements. The three types of risk are- operational risk, market risk, capital risk.
Banks need to mandatory disclose their risk exposure to the central bank.