05th Jan, 2019-IAS Current Affairs
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‘Innovative drugs’ (GS2: Issues related to Health)
Issue: The government recently exempted innovative medicines developed by foreign companies from price control for five years, giving Indian patients access to drugs that are currently only available abroad.
What the exemption means?
In amendments to the Drugs Price Control Order (DPCO), the ministry of chemicals and fertilizers exempted producers of new drugs patented under the Indian Patent Act, 1970 (39 of 1970) from price regulation for a period of five years from the date of commencement of its commercial marketing by the manufacturer in the country.
Concerns with the new amendments
This exemption will deliver dividends to foreign companies for the foreseeable future and shrinks the policy space for government to make highly expensive medicines for life-threatening conditions more affordable to the public
Drug Price Control Orders (DPCO) are issued by the Government, in exercise of the powers conferred under section 3 of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, for enabling the Government to declare a ceiling price for essential and life saving medicines (as per a prescribed formula) so as to ensure that these medicines are available at a reasonable price to the general public.
National Pharmaceutical Pricing Policy (NPPP) is the policy governing price control and DPCO is the order by which price control is enforced. The Drug Price Control Orders are issued by Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, which is the main nodal administrative ministry for pharmaceutical companies. They are issued under the “Essential Commodities Act 1955 whereby certain medicines could be declared to be essential commodities.
‘Vertical lift bridge’ (GS3: Infrastructure)
Issue: Indian Railways is all set to build country’s first vertical-lift bridge connecting Rameswaram to mainland India.
What is a vertical-lift bridge?
A vertical-lift bridge or just lift bridge is a type of movable bridge in which a span rises vertically while remaining parallel with the deck.
The vertical lift offers several benefits over other movable bridges such as the bascule and swing-span bridge. Generally speaking they cost less to build for longer moveable spans
The biggest disadvantage to the vertical-lift bridge (in comparison with many other designs) is the height restriction for vessels passing under it. This is a result of the deck remaining suspended above the passageway.
‘Fugitive Economic Offender’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: Vijay Mallya has been declared as a ‘fugitive economic offender’ by Special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court. Mallya has become the first businessman to be declared EFO under the provisions of the new Fugitive Economic Offenders Act which came into existence in August last year.
About Fugitive Economic offenders act
- The act allows for a person to be declared as a fugitive economic offender (FEO) if: (i) an arrest warrant has been issued against him for any specified offences where the value involved is over Rs 100 crore, and (ii) he has left the country and refuses to return to face prosecution.
- To declare a person an FEO, an application will be filed in a Special Court (designated under the Prevention of Money-Laundering Act, 2002) containing details of the properties to be confiscated, and any information about the person’s whereabouts. The Special Court will require the person to appear at a specified place at least six weeks from issue of notice. Proceedings will be terminated if the person appears.
- The act allows authorities to provisionally attach properties of an accused, while the application is pending before the Special Court.
- Upon declaration as an FEO, properties of a person may be confiscated and vested in the central government, free of encumbrances (rights and claims in the property). Further, the FEO or any company associated with him may be barred from filing or defending civil claims.
- Under the act, any court or tribunal may bar an FEO or an associated company from filing or defending civil claims before it. Barring these persons from filing or defending civil claims may violate Article 21 of the Constitution i.e. the right to life. Article 21 has been interpreted to include the right to access justice.
- Under the act, an FEO’s property may be confiscated and vested in the central government. The Bill allows the Special Court to exempt properties where certain persons may have an interest in such property (e.g., secured creditors). However, it does not specify whether the central government will share sale proceeds with any other claimants who do not have such an interest (e.g., unsecured creditors).
- The act does not require the authorities to obtain a search warrant or ensure the presence of witnesses before a search. This differs from other laws, such as the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973, which contain such safeguards. These safeguards protect against harassment and planting of evidence.
- The act provides for confiscation of property upon a person being declared an FEO. This differs from other laws, such as CrPC, 1973, where confiscation is final two years after proclamation as absconder.
‘Mission Indradhanush’ (GS2: Issues related to Health)
Issue: Mission Indradhanush’ has been selected as one of the 12 best practices globally and has been featured in a special issue of the British Medical Journal titled ‘Improving vaccination coverage in India: lessons from Intensified Mission Indradhanush, a cross-sectoral systems strengthening strategy’.
About the programme
To strengthen and re-energize the programme and achieve full immunization coverage for all children and pregnant women at a rapid pace, the Government of India launched “Mission Indradhanush” in December 2014.
The ultimate goal of Mission Indradhanush is to ensure full immunization with all available vaccines for children up to two years of age and pregnant women. The Government has identified 201 high focus districts across 28 states in the country that have the highest number of partially immunized and unimmunized children.
Earlier the increase in full immunization coverage was 1% per year which has increased to 6.7% per year through the first two phases of Mission Indradhanush. Four phases of Mission Indradhanush have been conducted till August 2017 and more than 2.53 crore children and 68 lakh pregnant women have been vaccinated.
To further intensify the immunization programme, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi launched the Intensified Mission Indradhanush (IMI) on October 8, 2017. Through this programme, Government of India aims to reach each and every child up to two years of age and all those pregnant women who have been left uncovered under the routine immunisation programme/UIP. The special drive will focus on improving immunisation coverage in select districts and cities to ensure full immunisation to more than 90% by December 2018. The achievement of full immunisation under Mission Indradhanush to at least 90% coverage was to be achieved by 2020 earlier. With the launch of IMI, achievement of the target has now been advanced.
Under IMI, four consecutive immunization rounds will be conducted for 7 days in 173 districts (121 districts and 17 cities in 16 states and 52 districts in 8 northeastern states) every month between October 2017 and January 2018. Intensified Mission Indradhanush will cover low performing areas in the selected districts (high priority districts) and urban areas. Special attention will be given to unserved/low coverage pockets in sub-centre and urban slums with migratory population. The focus is also on the urban settlements and cities identified under National Urban Health Mission (NUHM).
Through UIP, Government of India is providing vaccination free of cost against vaccine preventable diseases include diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, measles, severe form of childhood tuberculosis, hepatitis B, meningitis and pneumonia (Hemophilus influenza type B infections), Japanese encephalitis (JE) in JE endemic districts with introduction of newer vaccines such as rotavirus vaccine, IPV, adult JE vaccine, pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) and measles-rubella (MR) vaccine in UIP/national immunization programme.
‘Health programmes in India’ (GS2: Issues related to Health)
Issue: Indian government is taking several steps to ensure a good standard of health for its citizens
Some of the programmes active in India in this regard include:
- Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY), a demand promotion and conditional cash transfer scheme to encourage institutional deliveries.
- Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakram (JSSK) aims to eliminate out-of-pocket expenses for pregnant women and for treatment of sick neonates.
- Pradhan MantriSurakshitMatritva Abhiyan (PMSMA) to provide fixed-day assured comprehensive and quality antenatal care universally to all pregnant women on 9th of every month.
- LaQshya- Labor room Quality improvement Initiative for improving quality of care around birth and ensure respectful maternity care.
- Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Wings are being established at high caseload facilities to improve quality of care.
- Maternal Death Surveillance and Response (MDSR) at facilities and in community to take corrective action for averting maternal deaths.
- Operationalization of Comprehensive Abortion Care Services and services for Reproductive Tract Infections and Sexually Transmitted Infections (RTI/STI) at health facilities.
- Capacity building of MBBS doctors in Anaesthesia (LSAS) and Obstetric Care including C-section (EmOC) skills and establishment of Skill Labs to enhance quality of training.
- Mother and Child Tracking System (MCTS) and Mother and Child Tracking Facilitation Centre (MCTFC) to monitor timely and quality ANC services, JSY benefit, Immunization etc.
- Dissemination of Operational guidelines for Universal screening of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus, screening for hypothyroidism for high risk pregnancy, calcium supplementation and de-worming during pregnancy.
- Under Anemia Mukt Bharat (Intensified National Iron Plus Initiative), iron and folic acid supplementation is provided across life stages for pregnant and lactating women, children and adolescent girls.
- Establishment of Special Newborn Care Units (SNCU), Newborn Stabilization Units (NBSU) and Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) units for care of sick and small babies.
- Home Based Newborn Care (HBNC) and Home Based Care of Young Children (HBYC) by ASHAs to improve child rearing practices.
- Early initiation and exclusive breastfeeding and appropriate Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) practices are being promoted in convergence with Ministry of Women and Child Development. Mass media campaigns and capacity building of health care providers under Mothers’ Absolute Affection (MAA) programme for improving breastfeeding practices.
- Universal Immunization Programme (UIP) is being supported to provide vaccination to children against various life threatening diseases.
- Government has launched Mission Indradhanush to reach the target of 90% Full Immunization Coverage through covering unvaccinated and partially vaccinated children and pregnant women in pockets of low immunization coverage in hard-to-reach areas.
- Rashtriya Bal SwasthyaKaryakram (RBSK) for screening and early detection of birth defects, diseases, deficiencies, development delays and early intervention services all children in the 0-18 years age group.
- Nutrition Rehabilitation Centres (NRCs) at public health facilities to manage children with Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) admitted with medical complications.
- National Deworming Days (NDDs) are being organised in the country to de-worm children aged 1-19 years using platforms such as AWCs and Schools by administering Albendazole tablets.
- Intensified Diarrhoea Control Fortnight (IDCF) is being observed across the country since 2014 for childhood diarrhoea control by promotion of ORS and zinc for treatment of childhood diarrhoea and creating community awareness on personal and community hygiene practices.
- IEC/BCC activities with focus on ANC, institutional delivery, nutrition, immunization etc.
- Weekly Iron and Folic acid Supplementation (WIFS)programme to provide weekly Iron and Folic Acid tablets to in-school boys and girls and out-of-school girls and biannual anti-helminthic Albendazole tablets for prevention of iron and folic acid deficiency anaemiacovering government, government aided andmunicipal schools and Anganwadi centres.
- School Health Program under Ayushman Bharat to strengthen health promotion and disease prevention interventions for school children.
- Scheme for Promotion of MenstrualHygienefor rural adolescent girls to increase awareness and hygienic practices among adolescent girls related to Menstrual Hygiene.
- Peer educators in the community are conducting participatory sessions on adolescent health issues.
- Adolescent Health Day (AHD) is being organized in community for reaching out to adolescents and their parents/ care givers and community leaders.
- Adolescent Friendly Health Clinics (AFHCs)at Government health facilities with Medical Officers, ANMs and Counselors trained in Adolescent Friendly Health Services for adequate and appropriate care to adolescents.
‘E-NAM’ (GS3: Indian Agriculture)
Issue: 585 wholesale regulated markets/ Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) Markets have been so far integrated with e-market (e-NAM) platform in 16 States and 2 Union Territories (UTs), who have carried out requisite reforms in their State Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee Act (APMC Act).
National Agriculture Market (NAM) is a pan-India electronic trading portal which networks the existing APMC mandis to create a unified national market for agricultural commodities.
The NAM Portal provides a single window service for all APMC related information and services. This includes commodity arrivals & prices, buy & sell trade offers, provision to respond to trade offers, among other services. While material flow (agriculture produce) continue to happen through mandis, an online market reduces transaction costs and information asymmetry.
Agriculture marketing is administered by the States as per their agri-marketing regulations, under which, the State is divided into several market areas, each of which is administered by a separate Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) which imposes its own marketing regulation (including fees). This fragmentation of markets, even within the State, hinders free flow of agri-commodities from one market area to another and multiple handling of agri-produce and multiple levels of mandi charges ends up escalating the prices for the consumers without commensurate benefit to the farmer.
NAM addresses these challenges by creating a unified market through online trading platform, both, at State and National level and promotes uniformity, streamlining of procedures across the integrated markets, removes information asymmetry between buyers and sellers and promotes real time price discovery, based on actual demand and supply, promotes transparency in auction process, and access to a nationwide market for the farmer, with prices commensurate with quality of his produce and online payment and availability of better quality produce and at more reasonable prices to the consumer.
Objectives of NAM
- A national e-market platform for transparent sale transactions and price discovery initially in regulated markets. Willing States to accordingly enact suitable provisions in their APMC Act for promotion of e-trading by their State Agricultural Marketing Board/APMC.
- Liberal licensing of traders / buyers and commission agents by State authorities without any pre-condition of physical presence or possession of shop /premises in the market yard.
- One license for a trader valid across all markets in the State.
- Harmonization of quality standards of agricultural produce and provision for assaying (quality testing) infrastructure in every market to enable informed bidding by buyers. Common tradable parameters have so far been developed for 69 commodities.
- Single point levy of market fees, i.e on the first wholesale purchase from the farmer.
- Provision of Soil Testing Laboratories in/ or near the selected mandi to facilitate visiting farmers to access this facility in the mandi itself. M/s. Nagarjuna Fertilizers and Chemicals Ltd. is the Strategic Partner (SP) who is responsible for development, operation and maintenance of the platform. The broad role of the Strategic Partner is comprehensive and includes writing of the software, customizing it to meet the specific requirements of the mandis in the States willing to integrate with NAM and running the platform
‘RASHTRIYA GOKUL MISSION’ (GS3: Indian agriculture)
Issue: Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries has been implementing Rashtriya Gokul Mission with the aim of development and conservation of indigenous bovine breeds.
About the mission
The Mission will be implemented with the objectives to: a) development and conservation of indigenous breeds b) undertake breed improvement programme for indigenous cattle breeds so as to improve the genetic makeup and increase the stock; c) enhance milk production and productivity; d) upgrade nondescript cattle using elite indigenous breeds like Gir, Sahiwal, Rathi, Deoni, Tharparkar, Red Sindhi and e) distribute disease free high genetic merit bulls for natural service.
Rashtriya Gokul Mission will be implemented through the “State Implementing Agency (SIA viz Livestock Development Boards). State Gauseva Ayogs will be given the mandate to sponsor proposals to the SIA’s (LDB’s) and monitor implementation of the sponsored proposal.
Funds under the scheme will be allocated for: a) establishment of Integrated Indigenous Cattle Centres viz “Gokul Gram”; b) strengthening of bull mother farms to conserve high genetic merit Indigenous Breeds; c) establishment of Field Performance Recording (FPR) in the breeding tract d) assistance to Institutions/Institutes which are repositories of best germplasm; e) implementation of Pedigree Selection Programme for the Indigenous Breeds with large population; f) Establishment of Breeder’s Societies: Gopalan Sangh g) distribution of disease free high genetic merit bulls for natural service h) incentive to farmers maintaining elite animals of indigenous breeds; i) heifer rearing programme; award to Farmers (“Gopal Ratna” ) and Breeders’ Societies (“Kamadhenu” ); j) organization of Milk Yield Competitions for indigenous breeds and k) organization of Training Programme for technical and non technical personnel working at the Institute/Institutions engaged in indigenous cattle development.
‘Neolithic age’ (GS1: Indian History)
Issue: Andhra Pradesh’s second largest petroglyph site, containing about 80 petroglyhs, has been discovered at Mekala Benchi, a spot near Aspari town, north of the Kurnool-Ballari highway in Kurnool district.
During his visit to the site on December 16, the researcher also collected various types of stone tools potsherds dating back to the Neolithic period (2900 BCE-1000 BCE).
About Neolithic period
The term Neolithic Period refers to the last stage of the Stone Age – a term coined in the late 19th century CE by scholars which covers three different periods: Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic. The Neolithic period is significant for its megalithic architecture, the spread of agricultural practices, and the use of polished stone tools
The term Neolithic or New Stone Age is most frequently used in connection with agriculture, which is the time when cereal cultivation and animal domestication was introduced. Because agriculture developed at different times in different regions of the world, there is no single date for the beginning of the Neolithic.
By adopting a sedentary way of life, the Neolithic groups increased their awareness of territoriality. During the 9600-6900 BCE period, there were also innovations in arrowheads, yet no important changes in the animals hunted were detected. However, human skeletons were found with arrowheads embedded in them and also some settlements were surrounded with a massive wall and ditch around this time. It seems that the evidence of this period is a testimony of inter-communal conflicts, not far from organized warfare. There were also additional innovations in stone tool production that became widespread and adopted by many groups in distant locations, which is evidence for the existence of important networks of exchange and cultural interaction.
‘Sanitation’ (GS2: Issues related to Health)
Issue: New research on the impact of the Swachh Bharat Mission in the rural parts of four northern States shows that while open defecation has fallen and toilet ownership has increased, the percentage of people who owned toilets but continued to defecate in the open has remained unchanged between 2014 and 2018.
Observations made in the study include:
- This indicates that the Mission has been more successful at toilet construction than at driving behavior change
- Approximately 44% of people over two years old in rural Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh still defecate in the open.
- The fraction of people who own a toilet, but who nevertheless defecate in the open remains at about 23%.
The 2014 survey took place before the launch of the government’s flagship Swachh Bharat Mission which aims to eliminate open defecation across the country by October 2, 2019. According to the Mission, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are already open defecation free or ODF states. Bihar has achieved 98.97% coverage of toilets for every household, while Uttar Pradesh has achieved 100%, according to government data, although the state has yet to be declared ODF.