1. Corona ‘infected’ Bitcoin now trades well below its production cost

Relevant for GS Prelims & Mains Paper III; Economics

Bitcoin, the world’s most famous cryptocurrency is currently taking a severe beating. This comes in the wake of the ongoing economic meltdown caused by the coronavirus.

With stock market falling to record levels with every passing day, Bitcoin recently saw its value drop from $7,500 to under $4,000 in less than 48 hours. Last month, it was being traded at around $10,500 a unit.

Becoming unviable

Bitcoin which was also the 1st-ever global cryptocurrency is now trading well below the cost required by miners (cryptocurrency makers) to produce it.

As per the current production cost, producing one bitcoin costs nearly $8,000 on the highest end.  On the lower end, this figure is about $4,800.

This means that currently, most miners are currently working at a loss. This is so, considering the massive amount of processing energy consumed in producing a bitcoin.

It is done by using blockchain technology and each unit of the bitcoin takes months to make.

Keeping their fingers crossed!

Those who deal in Bitcoin can take heart from the fact that in the past, Bitcoin’s value has risen to new all-time highs after going through similar depressing cycles.

2. End of free digital lunch, banks to charge UPI transactions

Relevant for GS Prelims & Mains Paper III; Economics

There’s bad news for all those who use Unified Payment Interface (UPI mode) for making transactions. From 1st April, 2020, the banks such as Kotak Mahindra Bank and Axis Bank will start charging a fee to facilitate such transactions.

A monumental shift

While NEFT and RTGS have traditionally been paid services, UPI has been so far facilitating Person-to-Person (P2P) and Person-to-Merchant (P2M) transactions free of cost.

How much will be charged?

The charges that will be imposed on customers will vary as per the value of the transaction. While the initial 20 transactions will be free of cost, users will have to pay Rs. 2.5 for transactions upto Rs. 1,000. For transactions above that amount, Rs. 5 will be charged. These charges are exclusive of GST.

What will be the impact?

With the imposition of these charges, UPI transactions will now generate additional revenue for the banks. This will happen through either the banks’ own apps or 3rd party apps such as Paytm, PhonePe, Google Pay, Amazon Pay etc. However, on the other hand, these charges will come as a blow to the rapidly growing, fin-tech segment of the Indian economy.

The Current Scenario

 Launched in 2016, the UPI has become the backbone of the country’s digital payment industry. It recorded over 1 billion monthly transactions in Sep. 2019 while the total transactions reached 10.7 billion.

3. What is herd immunity?

Relevant for GS Prelims & Mains Paper III; Science & Technology

Last week, the UK’s Government Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance hinted at a strategy that would allow the novel coronavirus to infect 60% of the country’s population so that a degree of “herd immunity” could be achieved.

Following widespread criticism, and with Imperial College London projecting a dire scenario if the pandemic remains uncontrolled, the UK has now retracted — and is looking at self-isolation for the elderly.

What does herd immunity mean?

Herd immunity refers to preventing an infectious disease from spreading by immunising a certain percentage of the population. While the concept is most commonly used in the context of vaccination, herd community can also be achieved after enough people have become immune after being infected.

The premise is that if a certain percentage of the population is immune, members of that group can no longer infect another person. This breaks the chain of infection through the community (“herd”), and prevents it from reaching those who are the most vulnerable.

However, the discussion on herd immunity to fight COVID-19 in the UK has not been based on this conventional definition. The UK government had wanted the entire population to be exposed to the novel coronavirus infection, so that the majority could develop immunity to COVID-19.

How does herd immunity work?

The scientific principle is that the presence of a large number of immune persons in the community, who will interrupt the transmission, provides indirect protection to those who are not immune.

To estimate the extent of spread and immunity, epidemiologists use a measure called the ‘basic reproductive number’ (R0). This indicates how many persons will be infected when exposed to a single case; an R0 of more than 1 indicates one person can spread the infection to multiple persons.

Scientific evidence shows that a person with measles can infect around 12-18 persons; and a person with influenza can infect around 1.2-4.5 persons, depending on the season. On the basis of the available evidence from China, and according to various experts, R0 COVID-19 ranges between 2 and 3.

There are three ways in which an infection can spread in a community. The first scenario looks at a community that is not immunised. When two infectious cases, both with an R0 value of 1, are introduced, there is a possibility of the entire community being infected, with a few exceptions.

In the second scenario, there may be some persons who have been immunised; and only these immunised persons will not be infected when at least two infectious cases are introduced in the community.

The third scenario is when the majority of the community is immunised. So, when two infectious cases are introduced, the spread can take place only in exceptional cases, like in the elderly or other vulnerable persons. Even in such a situation, the immunised persons protect the non-immunised by acting as a barrier — which is herd immunity.

When do we know that a population has achieved herd immunity?

It depends on multiple factors: how effective the vaccine for a given disease is, how long-lasting immunity is from both vaccination and infection, and which populations form critical links in transmission of the disease. Mathematically, it is defined on the basis of a number called “herd immunity threshold”, which is the number of immune individuals above which a disease may no longer circulate. The higher the R0, the higher the percentage of the population that has to be immunised to achieve herd immunity.

Polio has a threshold of 80% to 85%, while measles has 95%. With the current data for COVID-19, experts have estimated a threshold of over 60%. That means more than 60% of the population needs to develop immunity to reach the stage of herd immunity.

Why is herd immunity as a strategy against COVID-19 questionable?

It is very risky to seek herd immunity by allowing a large proportion of the population to get infected. Such a strategy at this stage, experts have underlined, would be based on many unknowns and variables.

To begin with, much about the behaviour of the pathogen is still unclear. There isn’t enough statistically significant data to estimate conclusively how many persons can get the virus from a single infected person.

Second, it can take months, or even longer, to build group immunity to COVID-19. During that time, the need is to protect people who are at greater risk; the numbers so far indicate that people above 55, especially those with co-morbidities like cardiovascular disease and hypertension, are the most vulnerable.

Third, while herd immunity may come about from a pandemic because the people who survive may develop immunity — they also may not — it is important to note that for COVID-19, we still don’t know whether one can become immune to the virus. Nor is it clear whether a person who develops immunity will remain permanently immune.

The UK’s original strategy to achieve herd immunity would put a huge burden on the healthcare system. Allowing the virus to pass through the population means a surge of patients, putting pressure on existing ICU and emergency beds. The UK was looking at 60% of the population getting infected, which could have happened rapidly. Epidemiologists stress “flattening the curve” — slowing the spread of an infection over a large population — and this cannot be achieved by allowing the virus to pass through the entire population.

Source: The Indian Express

4. Retired judges should not accept a Parliament seat lest it be seen as a political reward

Relevant for GS Prelims & Mains Paper II; Polity & Governance

The President’s nomination of former Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, as a Rajya Sabha member so soon after his retirement will be seen as a crass example of a regime rewarding a member of the judiciary for meeting its expectations during his tenure.

What are the arguments?

The gap of four months between his retirement and nomination, and the fact that a series of decisions in his court were in seeming conformity with the present government’s expectations militate against such a justification.

The second argument, that there have been instances of retired Chief Justices being nominated to the Upper House or appointed Governors, does not cut ice either, as it is nothing more than a dubious claim to the same level of impropriety.

Similar incidents of past

In fact, references to the late CJI Ranganath Mishra and Justice Baharul Islam as valid precedents reflect quite poorly on the executive, and amount to competitive impropriety. There continues to be a perception that these were lapses in propriety. Justice Mishra’s commission of inquiry absolved the Congress from any organisational responsibility for the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. Justice Islam exonerated a Congress Chief Minister of wrong-doing in a financial scandal in Bihar. The party had helped Justice Islam move both ways between Parliament and the judiciary. He quit the Upper House in 1972 to take office as a High Court judge. In 1983, he quit as a Supreme Court judge to contest an election.

Criticism of appointment

Mr. Gogoi’s appointment cannot be seen, as he has sought to project, as a way of ensuring cohesion between the judiciary and the legislature. He no longer represents the judiciary, and his contribution will be limited to the expertise and knowledge he can bring to debates in Parliament. Any attempt to create ‘cohesion’ between the two wings would necessarily encroach on the judiciary’s role as a restraining force on the executive and legislature.

Source: The Hindu

Q. “Parliament’s power to amend the constitution is a limited power and it cannot be enlarged into absolute power”. In the light of this statement explain whether Parliament under Article 368 of the Constitution can destroy the Basic structure of the Constitution by expanding its amending power? (2019, 15 Marks, 250 Words)

Attempt this question by clicking on the linkhttps://www.prepmate.in/question/20-03-2020/

PrepMate team will evaluate your answer. Only PrepMate Polity & Governance and IOBR book readers can submit their answer.