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Daily Current Affairs for UPSC IAS: 18th March 2020

Daily Current Affairs for Government Exams:

Today Current Affairs:18th March 2020 for UPSC IAS exams, State PSC exams, SSC CGL, State SSC, RRB, Railways, Banking Exam & IBPS, etc


  1. Payment Aggregators (PAs) and Payment Gateways (PGs)
  2. Premium subsidy sharing pattern between Centre & North Eastern states.
  3. Permanent Commission for Women in Indian Navy
  4. National Guidelines on Infant and Young Child Feeding:
  5. Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020
  6. Phase 2 of the Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban):
  7. Aircraft (Amendment) BILL, 2020
  8. Potential Fishing Zone (PFZ):
  9. Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK):
  10. National Backward Classes Finance & Development Corporation (NBCFDC)
  11. Other important current affairs:

1. Payment Aggregators (PAs) and Payment Gateways (PGs) :

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has released guidelines for regulating activities of Payment Aggregators (PAs) and Payment Gateways (PGs) in the country.

  • PAs and PGs are intermediaries playing an important function in facilitating payments in the online space.

Payment Aggregators and Payment Gateways

  • Payment Aggregators facilitate e-commerce sites and merchants in accepting payment instruments from the customers for completion of their payment obligations without the need for merchants to create a separate payment integration system of their own. Example: Billdesk.
  • Payment Gateways are entities that provide technology infrastructure to route and facilitate the processing of an online payment transaction without any involvement in the handling of funds. PGs in India mainly include banks.
  • A Payment Gateway allows the merchants to deal with a specific payment option put on the portal, whereas a Payment Aggregator allows one to have multitudes of options for payment. Thus, a Payment Aggregator covers a payment gateway in its ambit.


2. Premium subsidy sharing pattern between Centre & North Eastern states :

Premium subsidy sharing pattern between Centre & North Eastern states changed from 50:50 to 90:10.

  • The agriculture minister informed the Lok Sabha that the premium subsidy sharing pattern between the Centre and the North Eastern States has been changed from 50: 50 to 90:10.
  • It will allow more States to notify the scheme and existing States to notify more crops and areas to facilitate greater coverage of farmers under the scheme.
  • For the remaining States, the subsidy sharing pattern will continue as 50: 50.
  • The Minister also said, Insurance companies will now be selected by the States for 3 years in a go instead of one year thereby increasing their commitment and accountability to the farmers.


3.Permanent Commission for Women in Indian Navy:

The Supreme Court has upheld the right of serving Short Service Commission (SSC) women officers of the Navy to be granted permanent commission (PC) on a par with their male counterparts.

  • The judgment was based on a case filed by 17 women SSC officers who were denied PC and discharged despite completing 14 years of service as SSC officers.
  • They had challenged a February 26, 2008 policy letter of the government granting PCs to SSC officers in all the three branches of the Armed Forces. However, the offer was restricted to certain categories and was to operate prospectively for the benefit of future batches inducted on SSCs after January 2009.
  • The Supreme Court on 17 February upheld a 2010 Delhi high court ruling and had directed the Centre to ensure that women officers are given permanent commissions in the Indian Army on a par with male officers, including for command posting.
  • Observations made by the Supreme Court:
    • Women officers have worked shoulder to shoulder with their men counterparts in every walk of service.
    • Therefore, the “101 excuses” devised by the government, including motherhood and physiological limitations, reeked of a stereotypical mindset.
    • And women’s naval officers cannot be denied the right to equal opportunity and dignity entitled to under the Constitution on specious grounds such as physiology, motherhood, and physical attributes.
    • Women naval officers will now be eligible to apply for permanent commission.
    • All serving women short service commission (SSC) officers in at least seven wings, including the executive, engineering, electrical, education, law, and logistics, will be eligible to apply.

A Permanent Commission means a career in the army until one retires. If one gets selected through the Permanent Commission, one has the option to serve the country up to the full age of retirement.

  • A women naval SSC officer retires in 10 years, whereas one with a permanent commission is entitled to serve for four more years, making it a total of 14 years.


4.National Guidelines on Infant and Young Child Feeding:

The National Guidelines on Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) were released by the Ministry of Human Resource Development in 2004.

  • These are in line with the adoption of the Global Strategy on Infant and Young Child Feeding by the 55th World Health Assembly in May 2002 and adoption of the Infant Milk Substitutes, Feeding Bottles and Infant Foods (Regulation of Production, Supply, and Distribution) Amendment Act, 2003 by the Parliament of India.
  • The National Nutrition Policy adopted by the Government of India under the aegis of the Department of Women and Child Development in 1993 laid due emphasis on nutrition and health education of mothers on infant and child feeding.
  • According to the guidelines, infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development, and health.
  • Thereafter to meet their evolving nutritional requirements, infants should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods while breastfeeding continues for up to two years of age or beyond tips taken by the Government of India to ensure Infant and Young Child Feeding:
  • Promotion of breastfeeding practices under Mothers’ Absolute Affection (MAA).
  • Observation of the Village Health Sanitation and Nutrition Days (VHSNDs) for the provision of maternal and child health services and creating awareness on maternal and child care.
  • Counseling to pregnant and lactating mothers under the Anganwadi Services Scheme.
  • Schemes such as Revised Mother and Child Protection Card, Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY), POSHAN Abhiyaan, etc.


5.Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020:

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020, which seeks to amend the MTP Act, 1971, was passed in Lok Sabha recently.

  • It seeks to extend the upper limit for permitting abortions from 20 weeks to 24 under special circumstances.
  • The “special categories of women” include rape survivors, victims of incest, the differently-abled and minors.
  • The Bill proposes a requirement of the opinion of one registered medical practitioner (RMP) for termination of pregnancy up to 20 weeks of gestation.
  • It also provides for the requirement of the opinion of two RMPs for termination of pregnancy of 20 to 24 weeks.
  • Constitution of a Medical Board: Every state government is required to constitute a Medical Board. These Medical Boards will consist of the following members: (i) a gynecologist, (ii) a pediatrician, (iii) a radiologist or sonologist, and (iv) any other number of members, as may be notified by the state government.
  • Under the Bill, if any pregnancy occurs as a result of the failure of any device or method used by a woman or her partner to limit the number of children, such unwanted pregnancy may constitute a grave injury to the mental health of the pregnant woman.


6.Phase 2 of the Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban):

Parliamentary Standing Committee on Urban Development recently tabled its report on the performance of the Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban) in Lok Sabha.

  • Despite the fact that work on three protocols under the next phase of Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban-2) — ODF+, ODF++ and Water Plus — is to be completed by 2024, the ground situation was not matching with the assigned timeline. The progress has been slow.
  • Less than 30 per cent of the cities have been certified as ODF+ so far. Out of 4,320 cities declared ODF, as low as 1,276 cities have been certified as ODF+.
  • The number of ODF++ cities — 411 — means that less than 10 percent of cities are certified as ODF++ so far.
    What is ODF+, ODF++?
  • ODF+ and ODF++ were launched in August 2018 to further scale up and sustain the work undertaken by the cities after achieving the ODF status under Phase I of the Swachh Bharat Mission — Urban (SBM-Urban).
  • Cities that had been certified ODF at least once, on the basis of the ODF protocols, are eligible to declare themselves as SBM-ODF+ & SBM-ODF++.
  • ODF+ and ODF++ are aimed towards the proper maintenance of toilet facilities and safe collection, conveyance, treatment/disposal of all fecal sludge and sewage.
  • While ODF+ focuses on toilets with water, maintenance, and hygiene, ODF++ focuses on toilets with sludge and septage management.


7.Aircraft (Amendment) BILL, 2020:

Lok Sabha today passed the Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020 to amend the Aircraft Act, 1934.

  • The amendments would fulfill the requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
  • This will enable the three regulatory bodies in the Civil Aviation sector in India, namely the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, Bureau of Civil Aviation Security and Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau to become more effective.
  • This will lead to enhancement in the level of safety and security of aircraft operations in the country.


8. National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction (NAPDDR).:

Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment informed Lok Sabha about the National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction (NAPDDR).

  • The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has formulated a National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction (NAPDDR) for 2018-2025.
  • The Plan aims at the reduction of adverse consequences of substance (drug) abuse through a multi-pronged strategy.
  • The activities under the NAPDDR, inter-alia, include awareness generation programs in schools/colleges/Universities, community-based peer-led intervention programs for vulnerable adolescents and youth in the community, provisioning of treatment facilities and capacity building of service providers.
  • The Ministry is also providing central assistance for running and maintenance for Integrated Rehabilitation Centres for Addicts (IRCA).


9.Potential Fishing Zone (PFZ):

The Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) has reported that Oceansat Satellite data are used to prepare the Potential Fishing Zone (PFZ) advisories on the potential rich fishing areas and provide to the seafaring fishermen in all states.

  • This methodology utilizes data on chlorophyll concentration (Chl) obtained from ISRO’s Oceansat-2 satellite and the sea surface temperature from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA / USA satellites).
  • Oceansat-2: Launched in 2009, it is designed to provide service continuity for operational users of the Ocean Colour Monitor (OCM) instrument on Oceansat-1.
  • The main objectives of OceanSat-2 are to study surface winds and ocean surface strata, observation of chlorophyll concentrations, monitoring of phytoplankton blooms, the study of atmospheric aerosols and suspended sediments in the water.
  • For seamless and effective dissemination of emergency information and communication on disaster warnings, Potential Fishing Zones (PFZ) and Ocean States Forecasts (OSF) to fishermen, the Government today launched the Gagan Enabled Mariner’s Instrument for Navigation and Information (GEMINI) device.
  • The GEMINI device receives and transfers the data received from GAGAN satellite/s to a mobile through Bluetooth communication. A mobile application developed by INCOIS decodes and displays the information in nine regional languages.


10.Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK):

Recently, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare informed the Rajya Sabha about the Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK) while discussing the health and well-being of adolescents in the country.

  • Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK) was launched by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) in 2014.
  • It intends to ensure the holistic development of the adolescent population.
  • The RKSK program defines an adolescent as a person within 10-19 years of age, in urban and rural areas, includes both girls and boys, married and unmarried, poor and affluent, whether they are in school or out of school.
  • The program also focuses on reaching out to all adolescents including Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ).
  • To guide the implementation of this program, MoHFW in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has developed a National Adolescent Health Strategy.
  • The six thematic areas of RKSK, as well as that of the strategy, are nutrition, sexual reproductive health, substance misuse, non – communicable diseases, mental health and injuries, and violence.
  • The prime elements of the program are:
    • Adolescent Friendly Health Clinics (AFHCs) across various levels of public health institutions in all the States.
    • Weekly Iron Folic Acid Supplementation (WIFS) Programme for school-going adolescent boys and girls and out of school adolescent girls across the country.
    • Peer Educator Programme in select 200 districts, based on Composite Health Index and identified as High Priority Districts (HPDs).
    • The Menstrual Hygiene Scheme provides funds to the States/UTs for the procurement of sanitary napkins for Adolescent Girls (aged 10-19 years).


11.National Backward Classes Finance & Development Corporation (NBCFDC) and the National Institute of Social Defence (NISD):

The Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment is exploring the possibilities of a scheme for persons engaged in the act of begging.

  • The Scheme would cover identification, rehabilitation, provision of medical facilities, counseling, education, skill development with the support of State Governments/UTs and Voluntary Organizations, etc.
  • The Ministry also provides funds to the National Backward Classes Finance & Development Corporation (NBCFDC) and the National Institute of Social Defence (NISD) for the development of members of the beggars’ community.

National Backward Classes Finance & Development Corporation

  • NBCFDC is a Government of India Undertaking under the aegis of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
  • It was incorporated under Section 25 of the Companies Act 1956 on 13th January 1992 as a Company not for profit.
  • Its objective is to promote economic and developmental activities for the benefit of Backward Classes and to assist the poorer section of these classes in skill development and self-employment ventures.

National Institute of Social Defence

  • The National Institute of Social Defence (NISD) is an Autonomous Body and is registered under Societies Act XXI of 1860 with the Government of National Capital Territory (NCT), Delhi.
  • It is a central advisory body for the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
  • It is the nodal training and research institute in the field of social defense.
  • The institute currently focuses on human resource development in the areas of drug abuse prevention, the welfare of senior citizens, beggary prevention, transgender and other social defense issues.


Other important current affairs:

1. Recently, scientists from the Institute of Nano Science and Technology (INST) have developed a starch-based ‘hemostat’ material that concentrates the natural clotting factors in blood by physically absorbing excess fluid.

  • Hemostat materials absorb excess fluid by concentrating the natural clotting factors in the blood that are critical for stopping the blood flow.
  • The product is made by microparticles known as ‘calcium-modified carboxymethyl-starch’.
  • When the microparticles combine, they create an adherent gel that can remain on the wound until slowly dissipating as healing proceeds.
  • The product has increased absorption capacity and adhesion, it is inexpensive, non-toxic, biocompatible as well as biodegradable.

2.Details of measures taken by the Government to increase the availability, awareness, and usage of modern contraceptives are given below:

  • Mission Parivar Vikas: The Government has launched Mission Parivar Vikas on 10th November 2016 for substantially increasing access to contraceptives and family planning services in146 high fertility districts with Total Fertility Rate (TFR) of 3 and above in seven high focus states.
  • New contraceptives viz. Injectable contraceptive (Antara program) and Centchroman (Chhaya) have been added to the existing basket of choices in 2015-16.
  • A new method of IUCD insertion immediately after delivery i.e. post-partum IUCD (PPIUCD) has been introduced in 2010.
  • Family Planning Logistic Management and Information System (FP-LMIS): A dedicated software launched in 2017, to ensure smooth forecasting, procurement, and distribution of family planning commodities across all the levels of health facilities.
  • Clinical Outreach Teams (COT) Scheme has been launched in 146 Mission ParivarVikas districts wef December 2017 for providing family planning services through mobile teams from accredited organizations in far-flung, underserved and geographically difficult areas.

3. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has issued revised guidelines on the ‘Clinical Management of COVID-19’.

  • COVID-19 patients may present with mild, moderate, or severe illness and the early recognition of suspected patients allows for timely initiation of infection, prevention, and control.
  • The Ministry has recommended the use of drug combinations Lopinavir and Ritonavir (sold under the brand name Kaletra) depending upon the severity of the condition of a person having coronavirus infection, on a case-to-case basis.
  • Lopinavir-Ritonavir is recommended for high-risk groups of patients aged above 60 who are suffering from diabetes mellitus, renal failure, chronic lung disease and are immuno-compromised.
  • Lopinavir-Ritonavir is used widely for controlling Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection.
  • However, the use of Lopinavir-Ritonavir is also associated with significant adverse events which many times have led to discontinuation of therapy.
  • There is no current evidence from randomized controlled trials to recommend any specific treatment for suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients.
  • No specific antivirals are recommended for the treatment of those suffering from respiratory ailment due to a lack of adequate evidence from medical literature.
  • The use of this drug combination is suggested by an expert committee comprising doctors from the All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), experts from the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

4. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has said designated labs will use the conventional real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to test for the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

  • Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is conducted on swab collected from the back of the throat, a liquid sample from the lower respiratory tract, or a simple saliva sample. Such tests are commonly used in Influenza A, Influenza B, and H1N1 virus detection.
  • The PCR test uses a technique that creates copies of a segment of DNA.
  • ‘Polymerase’ refers to the enzymes that make the copies of DNA.
  • The ‘chain reaction’ is how the DNA fragments are copied, exponentially — one is copied into two, the two are copied into four, and so on.
  • Kary Mullis, the American biochemist who invented the PCR technique, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1993.

6. President Ram Nath Kovind has nominated Former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi to the Rajya Sabha.

  • Under article 80 of the Constitution, Rajya Sabha is composed of not more than 250 members, of whom 12 are nominated by the President of India from amongst persons who have special knowledge or practical experience in respect of such matters as literature, science, art, and social service.
  • Mr. Gogoi served as the 46th Chief Justice of India from 3rd October 2018 till 17th November 2019.

7. Thousands of Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders have been forced to cancel trips to India owing to the recent ban on their entry by the GOI and are apprehensive they will not be able to get back in the event of an emergency.

  • The government of India launched the ‘Overseas Citizenship of India’ (OCI) Scheme’ by making amendments to the Citizenship Act, 1955 in 2005.
  • On 09 January 2015, the Government of India discontinued the PIO card and merged it with the OCI card.

8. Safe Hands Challenge:

  • It is a campaign launched by the World Health Organization in the wake of the 2019-20 coronavirus pandemic.
  • The campaign urges everyone to wash their hands regularly for 40 seconds to keep themselves safe and prevent the transmission of disease.

9. Danube-Oder-Elbe Canal:

  • It intends to connect the Danube, Oder and Elbe rivers and thus provide another navigable link from the Black Sea to the North and Baltic Seas.
  • Environmental organizations from across central and eastern Europe are criticizing this project.
  • They say, the project, if constructed, would destroy the region’s river landscapes, in violation of EU environmental laws.

10. The Defence Acquisition Council approved the procurement of indigenously built 83 Tejas fighter aircrafts for the Indian Air Force.

  • The proposal is to be placed under Cabinet Committee on Security. The proposal is considered as a major boost to Make in India.
  • The Light Combat Aircraft LCA-Tejas was designed by the Aircraft Development Agency (ADA). The ADA operates under DRDO (Defence Research Development Organization). It was manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
  • These aircraft are expected to be the backbone of Indian Air Force. It is to be noted that India lost the 1962 war with China due to a lack of sufficient fighter jets.

11. The Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers recently reported at the Parliament that the DPCO, 2013 (Drugs Prices Control Order, 2013) has helped to save Rs 12, 447 crores per annum.

  • The DPCO is an order that was issued by the GoI under Essential Commodities Act, 1955.
  • The order provides details to fix the prices of the drugs, procedures to increase or decrease prices, penalties for defying the order, etc.
  • The Order empowered the National Pharmaceuticals Pricing Authority (NPPA) to fix the threshold prices of drugs.
  • The NPPA is allowed to fix prices only on those drugs that are listed under the National List of Essential Medicines.

12. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry announced in the parliament that New Industrial Policy and National E-Commerce Policy are to be released soon. The policies are to be framed by the Department of Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT).

  • The New Industrial Policy will be the third policy in Indian History after the policies that were released in 1956 and 1991. Both of those policies were prepared to focus on balance of payment crisis.

13. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has included Ayushman Bharat or the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana to fight against Corona Virus. So far India has recorded 168 confirmed cases of Corona Virus. OF these, India has cured 14 and three have so far died because of the virus.

  • The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has involved the National Health Authority as well to fight against Corona Virus.
  • The National Health Authority is the implementing agency of Ayushman Bharat.
  • The scheme will help in identifying the capacities of 19,840 empaneled hospitals to admit patients. Apart from this, the ministry will also include non-profit hospitals to ramp up the facilities.
  • The plan is to identify these beds and set up an isolated ward for COVID-19 patients.

14.Ordnance Factories Foundation Day 

  • On March 18, 2020, 219th Ordnance Factories Foundation Day was observed. Every year India observes March 18 as Ordnance Factory Day.
  • The first Ordnance Factory was established in Kolkata in 1801. There are 41 ordnance factories in the country.
  • The history of the ordnance factory is directly linked to the British reign of India. The Board of Ordnance Factories that still govern the ordnance factories in the country was established in 1775 at Fort Williams, Kolkata.
  • There were 18 ordnance factories before India became independent. The Ordnance Factory Board was established in 1979.

15. The Union Minister of State for Home Affairs replied in Rajya Sabha about the decline in Left Wing Extremism in the last five years. This has been possible mainly due to the implementation of “National Policy and Action Plan-2015”.

  • In 2019, the number of Left Wing Extremism has reduced by 38% as compared to 2014. This has been possible with the deployment of a large number of mini and micro unmanned serial vehicles to support anti-Left Wing Extremist Operation.
  • Also, the number of security forces killed in such operation also declined. In 2009, the numbers were around 317 and it reduced to 52 in 2019.
  • The Government primarily erected 2,329 mobile towers in these regions. With the increase in connectivity and construction of road, GoI aims to develop the region. This will decrease the number of youths joining the organizations.
  • The control of these organizations and the countermeasures are governed by the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of India, 1967.

16. The Scientists at the CSIR-IHBT (Council of Scientific and Industrial Research-Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology) has developed a new sanitizer without using chemicals.

  • The scientists have used active tea constituents, alcohol and have developed the sanitizer according to the guidelines of the World Health Organization.
  • Usually, chemicals such as triclosan, parabens, phthalates, and synthetic fragrance are used in the production of sanitizers.
  • None of these chemicals have been used in producing the CSIR formulated sanitizer.
  • The CSIR-IHBT has transferred the technology to a private company for commercial production. The company signed an agreement with CSIR to market the product in major cities in India.

17. The Government of India has opened the testing of the Corona Virus to the private sector. The price of testing is to range between Rs 9,000 and Rs 12,000.

  • The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is to establish 51 testing centers apart from the private sector operated ones.
  • These centers are to be authorized by the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL). Already, there are 72 ICMR labs doing the tests.
  • The ICMR is to share the Standard of Procedure to test the virus to these labs.
  • In order to perform the tests, the labs have to acquire probes, reagents, and primers all by themselves.
  • The test kits will then be validated by the National Institute of Virology. Only then the labs are authorized to perform the tests on the public.