Facts in News

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    Facts in News

    Himalayan Yaks

    • For the first time, National Research Centre on Yak (NRCY) at Dirang in Arunachal Pradesh has partnered with National Insurance Company Ltd. to insure high-altitude yak.
    • Background: 
      • Yak is susceptible to inclement weather conditions due to climate change, diseases, attacks by wild animals, etc.
      • In 2019 alone, 500 yaks had died in Sikkim due to heavy snowfall. 
    • Benefits of Policy: It will shield from a number of risks posed by weather calamities, diseases, in-transit mishaps, surgical operation, strikes or riots and permanent total disability for breeding or stud yaks

    About Yak 

    • A ruminant species and native of the Tibetan plateau.
      • Wild (Bos mutus)- Ancestor
      • Domestic (Bos grunniens)- Descender
    • Location: Remaining confined to Asian countries interconnected through the Himalayan, Pamir, Kun Lun, Tien Shan and Altay mountains.
    • Conservation Status:
      • IUCN: Vulnerable
      • CITES Appendix I
      • WPA, 1972: Schedule II
    • Features:
      • The only large mammals are able to graze at 6000 m above sea level, even at -40°C. 
      • Their characteristics assist them in coping with the thin air at high altitudes.
      • Yaks play a multi-dimensional socio-cultural-economic role for the pastoral nomadic communities to earn a livelihood.
    • Yak population in India
      • About 58,000
      • Found on the heights of Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Union Territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir, West Bengal and Uttarakhand.

    Image Courtesy: Outlook

    SPARSH Portal

    Recently, the Ministry of Defence has implemented SPARSH (System for Pension Administration Raksha).

    About

    • It is an integrated system for the automation of sanction and disbursement of defence pension.
    • It is a web-based system that processes pension claims and credits pension directly into the bank accounts of defence pensioners without relying on any external intermediary.
    • It is an end to end Online System facilitating and easing every aspect of Defence Pensions from Initiation to Disbursement.
    • It is being implemented for meeting the pension sanction and disbursement requirements for Armed Forces viz. Army, Navy, Air Force and Defence Civilians.
    • It will be administered by the Defence Accounts Department through the Principal Controller of Defence Accounts (Pensions), Prayagraj.

    Significance

    • It is available for pensioners to view their pension-related information, access services and register complaints about redressal of grievances.
    • It envisages the establishment of Service Centres to provide last-mile connectivity to pensioners who may be unable to directly access the SPARSH portal for any reason.
    • The two largest banks dealing with defence pensioners i.e. State Bank of India (SBI) and Punjab National Bank (PNB) have been co-opted as Service Centres.

    Agriculture Infrastructure Fund (AIF)

    Recently, the Union Cabinet approved modifications in the central sector scheme of financing facility under the ‘Agriculture Infrastructure Fund’.

    About

    • It is a  pan India Central Sector Scheme launched in the year 2020.
    • Aim: To provide a medium – long term debt financing facility for investment in viable projects for post-harvest management Infrastructure and community farming assets through interest subvention and financial support.
    • Duration: Extended to 13 years (FY2020 to FY2032).
    • Intended beneficiaries: Primary Agricultural Credit Societies (PACS), Marketing Cooperative Societies, Farmer Producers Organizations (FPOs), Self Help Group (SHG), Farmers, Multipurpose Cooperative Societies, Agri-entrepreneurs, Startups, Aggregation Infrastructure Providers and Central/State agency or Local Body sponsored PPP Project.
    • Finances: Rs.1 Lakh Crore will be provided by banks and financial institutions as loans to eligible beneficiaries.
      • All loans under this financing facility will have an interest subvention of 3% per annum up to a limit of Rs. 2 crores.

    Benefits

    • This interest subvention will be available for a maximum period of seven years.
    • Credit guarantee coverage will be available for eligible borrowers from this financing facility under Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises (CGTMSE) scheme for a loan up to Rs. 2 crores. The fee for this coverage will be paid by the Government.
    • In the case of FPOs, the credit guarantee may be availed from the facility created under the FPO promotion scheme of the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers Welfare (DACFW).
    • The moratorium for repayment under this financing facility may vary subject to a minimum of 6 months and a maximum of 2 years.

    Filariasis

    • Globally considered as a neglected tropical disease (NTD).
    • It is a parasitic disease caused by microscopic, thread-like worms. Wuchereria bancrofti, is responsible for 90% of the cases.
    • The adult worms only live in the human lymph system. 
    • The lymph system maintains the body’s fluid balance and fights infections. 
    • Transmission: It is spread from person to person by mosquitoes.
    • It is a leading cause of permanent disability worldwide. 

    National Programme for Elimination of Lymphatic Filariasis

    • Goal: Elimination of Lymphatic Filariasis in India by 2015. Later extended to 2021. 
    • Twin pillar strategies of Mass Drug Administration (MDA) for interruption of transmission.
    • Under it, anti-filaria drugs are administered to the eligible population once a year.
    • A combination of two drugs, diethylcarbamazine (DEC) and albendazole, or three — Ivermectin, DEC, and Albendazole is being administered.

    Kappa Variant

    Two cases of a lesser-prominent variant of COVID-19, the Kappa variant have emerged from the state of Uttar Pradesh.

    About

    • WHO has classified Kappa only as a “variant of interest”, while Delta is a “variant of concern”.
    • As per the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
      • A variant of Interest (VOI): A variant with specific genetic markers that have been associated with changes to receptor binding, reduced neutralization by antibodies generated against previous infection or vaccination, reduced efficacy of treatments, potential diagnostic impact, or predicted increase in transmissibility or disease severity.
      • A variant of Concern (VOC) is defined as “A variant for which there is evidence of an increase in transmissibility, more severe disease (e.g., increased hospitalizations or deaths), significant reduction in neutralization by antibodies generated during previous infection or vaccination, reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines, or diagnostic detection failures.
      • A variant of high consequence: It has clear evidence that prevention measures or medical countermeasures have significantly reduced effectiveness relative to previously circulating variants.

    How do variants of a virus emerge?

    • Variants of a virus have one or more mutations that differentiate them from the other variants that are in circulation. 
      • While most mutations are deleterious for the virus, some make it easier for the virus to survive.
    • Essentially, the goal of the virus is to reach a stage where it can cohabitate with humans because it needs a host to survive. 
      • This means, any virus is likely to become less severe as it keeps evolving, but in this process, it can attain some mutations that may be able to escape the body’s immune response or become more transmissible.

    Image Courtesy: the conservation

    London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR)

    • LIBOR is a well-entrenched interest rate benchmark in the global financial markets.
    • It is administered by the Intercontinental Exchange.
    • The rate is calculated using the Waterfall Methodology, a standardized, transaction-based, data-driven, layered method.
    • Concerns: LIBOR has been subject to manipulation, scandal, and methodological critique, making it less credible today as a benchmark rate.

    SOFR (Secured Overnight Financing Rate)

    • There is no final consensus on the new alternative reference rate (ARR).
    • But it is widely expected that SOFR will be accepted as the new benchmark rate. 
    • SOFR is linked to US treasury market transactions and is an identified replacement for LIBOR.
    • It is expected to replace LIBOR at the end of 2021.
    • Shift in India:
      • Major Indian banks such as the State Bank of India, ICICI Bank have started using SOFR in place of LIBOR. 
      • The RBI has issued a fresh advisory to banks to prepare for the transition.
      • Recently, Axis Bank announced its first derivative transaction linked to SOFR.