Prelim Snippets- 24.03.2020

1.Government Raises Excise Duty Cap on Fuel

Why in News?
  • The government has raised the cap on special additional excise duty on petrol and diesel to Rs 18 and Rs 12 per litre, respectively, as per the amendments in the Finance Bill passed in the Parliament.
  • This move which would help the government to raise excise duty on fuel further in future. The change in the cap will enable the government to raise duties on petrol and diesel by another Rs 8 per litre each.
  • Every rupee hike in excise duty is expected to yield roughly Rs 13,000-14,000 crore annually. The slump in global crude oil prices enables the government to raise these duties substantially without immediately putting the burden on the consumer.
  • But there is expected to be a demand slowdown for fuels with a nearly country wide lockdown in the wake of coronavirus. With airlines, railways, trucks and passenger cars going off the roads, petrol, diesel and ATF (aviation turbine fuel) consumption is expected to fall drastically.
  • The excise duties on petrol and diesel include basic excise duty, special additional excise duty, and road and infrastructure cess, which is levied as additional excise duty.
  • Government is increasing duties on petrol and diesel to raise revenues in view of a tight fiscal situation. Slump in global crude oil prices, alongside possibility of a global economic recession, has forced the government to look for avenues to raise revenues to support growth.
  • With major companies going for production shut downs, industry players have suggested the government to boost fiscal stimulus in the wake of demand collapse triggered by the coronavirus.
  • Saudi Arabia had triggered the crash in prices by announcing a sharp increase in oil production after Russia declined to reduce oil supply to contain a fall in oil prices due to declining demand in a meeting of petroleum exporting countries.

2.Hydroxychloroquinine for COVID-19 treatment

Why in News?
  • Hydroxychloroquine, a drug that has existed for several decades, could see a resurgence of demand, after the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) recommended its use as a preventive medicine against the novel coronavirus disease.
  • Hydroxychloroquine (not to be confused with anti-malaria drug chloroquine) is an oral drug used in the treatment of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Last week, US President Donald Trump had said a hydroxychloroquine-azithromycin combination could be a “game changer” in the fight against COVID-19.
  • The drug shows antiviral activity in vitro against coronaviruses, and specifically, SARSCoV-2.
  • Pharmacological modelling based on observed drug concentrations and in vitro drug testing suggest that prophylaxis with hydroxychloroquine at approved doses could prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection and ameliorate viral shedding.
  • The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says: Hydroxychloroquine is currently under investigation in clinical trials for pre-exposure or post-exposure prophylaxis of SARS-CoV-2 infection, and treatment of patients with mild, moderate, and severe COVID-19.
  • The CDC says both hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have in vitro activity against SARS-CoV, SARS-CoV-2, and other coronaviruses, with hydroxychloroquine having higher potency against SARS-CoV-2.
  • The National Taskforce for COVID-19 has recommended hydroxychloroquine for prophylaxis in case of asymptomatic healthcare workers involved in the care of suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 and asymptomatic household contacts of laboratory confirmed cases.
  • While the roles of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine in management of COVID-19 are still open questions for the scientific community, the azithromycin-hydroxychloroquine combination is part of an upcoming multi country trial anchored by the WHO in the fight against COVID-19.

3.Carissa carandas (the Great Hedge of India)

Why in News?
  • Carissa carandas, a multi-utility wild berry, whose thorny plant the British had used to build a barrier through India in the 1870s, has a hitherto unknown wilder cousin in Assam, a new study has revealed.
 Carissa Carandas:
  • The Carissa carandas was also among several thorny plants the British had grown 140 years ago for a 1,100-mile barrier apparently to enforce taxes and stop the smuggling of salt.
  • It has been used as a traditional herbal medicine for a number of ailments such as diarrhoea, anaemia, constipation, indigestion, skin infections and urinary disorders.
  • The leaves have been used as fodder for silkworms while a paste of its pounded roots serves as a fly repellent.
  • It is better known as karonda in Hindi, kalakkai in Tamil, koromcha in Bengali and karja tenga in Assamese, the Carissa kopilii is threatened by the very river it is named after — Kopili in central Assam.
  • The “sun-loving” plant was distributed sparsely, rooted in rocky crevices along the Kopili riverbed at altitudes ranging from 85-600 metres above sea level.

4.New model of Solar System’s Protective Bubble

Why in News?
  • Boston University astrophysicist and collaborators reveal a new model of our heliosphere that’s shaped somewhere between a croissant and a beach ball.
  • The heliosphere is a vast region, extending more than twice as far as Pluto. It casts a magnetic “force field” around all the planets, deflecting charged particles that would otherwise muscle into the solar system and even tear through DNA.
  • The heliosphere, despite its name, is not actually a sphere. Space physicists have longcompared its shape to a comet, with a round “nose” on one side and a long tail extending in the opposite direction.
  • In 2015, using a new computer model and data from the Voyager 1 spacecraft, researchers came to a different conclusion: they proposed that the heliosphere is actually shaped like a crescent, not unlike a freshly baked croissant, in fact.
  • In this “croissant” model, two jets extend downstream from the nose rather than a singlefade-away tail.
  • By timing particles echoing off the boundary of the heliosphere and correlating them withions measured by the twin Voyager spacecraft, Cassini scientists concluded that the heliosphere is actually very nearly round and symmetrical: neither a comet nor a croissant, but more like a beach ball.
  • Unlike most previous models, which assumed that charged particles within the solarsystem all hover around the same average temperature, the new model breaks the particles down into two groups.
  • First are charged particles coming directly from the solar wind. Second are what space physicists call “pickup” ions. These are particles that drifted into the solar system in an electrically neutral form.
  • Researchers studying exoplanets–planets around other stars are keenly interested incomparing our heliosphere with those around other stars. Because they believe it holds recipe for formation of life.
  • Researchers are still working on DNA-shredding interstellar particles and what theymean for life on Earth and on other planets.
  • Researchers are hoping to stir NASA to launch a next-generation interstellar probe thatwill cut a path through the heliosphere and directly detect pickup ions near the heliosphere’s periphery.


Why in News?
  • Recently, Anosmia and Ageusia have emerged as peculiar tell-tale signs of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and possible markers of Infection.
  • Anosmia is the loss of sense of smell and Ageusia is an accompanying diminished sense of taste.
  • The reports from doctors around the world, called on adults who lose their senses of smell to isolate themselves for seven days, even if they have no other symptoms, to slow the disease’s spread.
  • It could contribute to slowing transmission and save lives.

6.Teesta River

  • Recently, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has opened a 360 feet long bailey suspension bridge over Teesta river in Munshithang, Sikkim. The construction was commenced in 2019 under Project Swastik.
  • It will help the state tourism in growing and facilitate the movement of logistics for the Armed Forces deployed in the state.
About Border Roads Organization:
  • It was conceived and raised by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in 1960, for coordinating the speedy development of a network of roads in the North and the North Eastern border regions of the country.
  • It works under the administrative control of the Ministry of Defence. It is regarded as a symbol of nation-building, national integration and an inseparable component in maintaining the security and integrity of the country.
  • Its executive arm is the General Reserve Engineer Force(GREF). It is a combined force consisting of members of the Army and GREF.
About Teesta River:
  • It is a tributary of the Brahmaputra (known as Jamuna in Bangladesh), flowing through India and Bangladesh.
  • It originates in the Himalayas near Chunthang, Sikkim and flows to the south through West Bengal before entering Bangladesh.
  • In the beginning, the river continued southward to empty directly into the Padma River but around 1787 the river changed its course to flow eastward to join the Jamuna river.
  • Its water conflict is one of the most contentious issues between India and Bangladesh.
  • The Teesta Barrage dam helps to provide irrigation for the plains between the upper Padma and the Jamuna.
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