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Prelims Booster

28th May – Prelims Booster

New Development Bank

Union Finance Minister has attended the Special Board of Governors meeting of the New Development Bank through video conference recently. The agenda included the election of next President of NDB, appointment of Vice-President and Chief Risk Officer and membership expansion.

About New Development Bank –

  • It is a multilateral development bank jointly founded by the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) at the 6th BRICS Summit in Fortaleza, Brazil in 2014. The idea for setting up the bank was proposed by India at the 4th BRICS summit in 2012 held in Delhi.
  • It was formed to support infrastructure and sustainable development efforts in BRICS and other underserved, emerging economies for faster development through innovation and cutting-edge technology.
  • It is headquartered at Shanghai, China.
  • In 2018, the NDB received observer status in the United Nations General Assembly, establishing a firm basis for active and fruitful cooperation with the UN.
  • To fulfil its purpose, the Bank supports public or private projects through loans, guarantees, equity participation and other financial instruments.
  • India is one of the founding members, holding 20% stake in the Bank. As of now, NDB’s approved loan proportion to India is 28%, the second highest after China amongst the BRICS countries.

Solidarity Trials

Recently, the World Health Organisation has announced that it will no longer assign patients to the Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) arm of the multi-country Solidarity Trial on possible treatments for COVID19.

What is the Solidarity Trial?

  • “Solidarity” is an international initiative for clinical trials launched by the WHO, along with partners, to help find an effective treatment for Covid-19.
  • It was originally supposed to look at four drugs or drug combinations: remdesivir, HCQ, ritonavir/lopinavir and lopinavir/ritonavir/interferon beta 1a.
  • Now with HCQ trial enrolment stalled, the Solidarity trial will proceed with the other three arms. Some data on HCQ will still be generated, though.
  • India is among the countries where the Solidarity Trial is being carried out. Four hospitals in Jodhpur, Ahmedabad, Chennai and Bhopal have received regulatory approvals, and more will follow. In all, patients in 20-35 hospitals in the country will be part of the trial.

What is remdesivir?

So far, remdesivir is widely being described as the most promising, although results of various trials have sometimes being conflicting. Developed by Gilead Sciences Inc, remdesivir is a broad-spectrum antiviral which was previously tested in humans with Ebola virus disease, and which has also shown promise as a drug against MERS and SARS, both of which are caused by coronaviruses.

What is Hydroxychloroquine?

Hydroxychloroquine is a drug used in the treatment of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, and also as a malaria treatment and preventive.

What is ‘Ritonavir and Lopinavir’?

Ritonavir and liponavir are second-line HIV drugs, known as HIV protease inhibitors, that have been in use for some time. They bolster the immune system, which reduces the chances of a HIV-positive person developing complications such as tuberculosis.

What is lopinavir/ritonavir/interferon beta 1a?

It involves the two drugs in combination with interferon beta 1a — which belongs to a class of substances known as cytokines that are secreted by immune cells to signal other cells to act against an imminent or acute infection. It is used to treat diseases like multiple sclerosis. Some studies have shown that if interferon beta 1a is added to ritonavir and lopinavir, there are better results than when the antivirals alone are used.

Kheer Bhawani Mela

In the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, the Annual Kheer Bhawani Mela on 30th May this year in Tulmulla village of Ganderbal district has been cancelled by the Dharmarth Trust of Jammu and Kashmir because of outbreak of Coronavirus pandemic.

About Kheer Bhawani Mela –

  • Ragyna Devi Temple in Tulmulla Ganderbal village, near Srinagar (J&K) is popularly known as “Mata Kheer Bhawani temple”
  • Deity: The temple is dedicated to the Goddess Kheer Bhawani. The deity is also called as Maharagya Devi, Ragnya Devi, Rajni, Ragnya Bhagwati. The term Kheer refers to rice pudding that is offered in the spring located in the temple to Please the Goddess.
  • This is the most important temple for Kashmiri Pandits.
  • Mela Kheer Bhawani – It is an Annual Festival during which the devotees of the Goddess Mata Kheer Bhawani fast and gather here on the day of “Zeshta Ashtami,” the eighth day of the full moon in the month of May/June when, according to belief, the Goddess changes the colour of the spring’s waters. 

Suo Moto Cognisance

A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court has said that there have been ‘inadequacies and certain lapses’ on the part of the Central and State Governments in dealing with the migrant workers’ crisis during the COVID19 lockdown.

Details –

  • The court ordered the Centre and the States to immediately provide transport, food and shelter free of cost to the stranded migrant workers.
  • The suo moto cognisance of media reports and representations from senior lawyers to step in to protect the fundamental rights of the migrant workers were taken by the judges in their chambers.

What is ‘suo moto cognisance’?

  • A Suo Moto cognisance is a Latin term which means an action taken by a government agency, court or other central authority on their own apprehension.
  • A court takes a Suo Moto Cognizance of a legal matter when it receives information about the violation of rights or breach of duty through media or a third party’s notification.
  • In India, Article 32 of the Indian Constitution and Article 226 of the Indian Constitution lay down the provisions for filing Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in India in Supreme Court and High Courts respectively. This has given rise to the court’s’ power to initiate legal action on their cognisance of a matter.
  • Suo Moto’s actions by Indian courts are a reflection of activism by the judiciary and captivated the general public with the speedy delivery of justice by the courts.
  • Suo Moto cases in India are generally taken up by the Supreme Court. Suo Moto’s power of supreme court has been provided under Article 131 of the Indian Constitution. Suo Moto in India has ensured that justice should prevail in the civil as well as criminal matters.
  • The Indian Judiciary has been undoubtedly holding the baton for democracy for the past few years. Various courts in India have initiated legal proceedings on their own based on media reports, telegrams and letters received by aggrieved people, taking a Suo Moto cognisance of the issue.
  • Suo Moto action is when a High Court or Supreme Court on its own take control over the matter or the case.

National Security Law

China has moved ahead to pass the ‘National Security Law’ which signals its intent to take greater control of Hong Kong after months of pro-democracy protests last year.

What is ‘National Security Law’?

  • China’s legislature has issued a draft decision under which it will write a new national security law for Hong Kong that would prohibit “splittism, subversion, terrorism, any behaviour that gravely threatens national security and foreign interference”.
  • These terms have not been defined but the proposed law would probably be similar to China’s national security legislation. China’s national security law basically covers whatever [Beijing] wants it to cover.

Can China impose a law upon Hong Kong?

  • When the UK handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997, Beijing introduced a framework known as “one country, two systems” that granted the Asian financial hub a high degree of autonomy for 50 years.
  • According to Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, the territory is required to implement its own national security law to replace colonial legislation that was revoked during the handover. Tung Chee-hwa, Hong Kong’s first chief executive, tried to pass this legislation in 2003 but withdrew it after it triggered mass protests. His three successors never attempted to reintroduce similar laws, despite warnings from Beijing that Hong Kong was obliged to do so. 
  • Beijing said it could not wait any longer for Hong Kong to introduce its own national security law, leading to its announcement last week. But Beijing did not have the authority to impose such a law, lawyers said. Beijing’s proposal violates the Basic Law, which states that Hong Kong shall enact anti-subversion laws “on its own”, according to the Hong Kong Bar Association, adding that there are “a number of worrying and problematic features” about the proposed law.

What is the issue?

  • Hong Kong’s rule of law, which includes an independent judiciary, is one of the crucial factors that distinguishes it from mainland China. But the draft law instructs the territory’s judiciary to “effectively prevent, stop and punish acts endangering national security”. This suggests Hong Kong’s judges will be instructed by the Chinese Communist party to act in certain ways, undermining the city’s rule of law. 
  • While China’s state security agencies have long operated undercover in Hong Kong, the proposed bill allows China’s secret police to have a formal presence in the territory. Legal scholars say this also violates the Basic Law.

FAITH Trials

With the number of COVID-19 patients rising in India, Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Ltd. has announced a new randomised, open-label study to test the combined efficacy of two antiviral drugs – Favipiravir and Umifenovir – as a potential COVID19 treatment strategy.

What is FAITH Trial?

  • The two antiviral drugs have different mechanisms of action, and their combination may demonstrate improved treatment efficacy by effectively tackling high viral loads in patients during early stages of the disease.
  • The new combination clinical trial will be called FAITH – (FA vipiravir plus Um I fenovir (efficacy and safety) Trial in Indian Hospital setting).

How will it be done?

  • As many as 158 hospitalised patients of moderate COVID-19 infection will be enrolled in the combination study and randomised in two groups.
  • While one group will be receiving Favipiravir and Umifenovir (with standard supportive care), the other group will receive Favipiravir along with standard supportive care.
  • Patients taking the drug will receive Faviprivir 1800 mg bid and Umifenovir 800 mg bid on Day 1. Thereafter, they will receive Faviprivir 800mg bid and Unifenovir 800mg bid for the remaining course of treatment.
  • Duration of treatment will be 14 days and patients will be discharged after clinical cure and two consecutive negative tests.

Bev Q

Google has accorded its approval to the mobile virtual queue management app, Bev Q, clearing the decks for the reopening of liquor outlets in compliance with physical distancing norms.

What is Bev Q?

  • Bev Q is a mobile app which will generate virtual tokens in a bid to reduce rush at liquor outlets in Kerala.
  • The app, developed by the Kochi-based startup Faircode Technologies Private Limited, was submitted for the approval of Google after two-level testing, ironing out the chinks by a testing agency accredited with the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team.

Daily MCQs

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