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Daily Current affairs 09 February 2019

UPSC - Daily Current Affair

 

Will the Rs. 6,000 farmer payout help? Editorial 8th Feb’19 TheHindu

Farm Crisis in India:

  • The farm crisis is real, and it is not a recent phenomenon.
  • It is the result of policies adopted by most of the political outfits that have governed this nation and its States for the past many decades.

 

Various measures for farmers over the last few years:

  • MSP: In the 2018-19 Budget, the government announced that minimum support price (MSP) would be 1.5 times the cost of production for all the notified commodities.
  • PM-AASHA: The Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay Sanrakshan Abhiyan (PM-AASHA) was approved by the Cabinet in 2018 to ensure remunerative prices to the farmers [comprised of Price Support Scheme (PSS), Price Deficiency Payment Scheme (PDPS) etc.].
  • PMFBY: Earlier, in 2016, the government launched the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana to provide insurance to farmers from all risks.
  • Pulses and Oilseeds: There have been various interventions to boost the production of pulses and oilseeds.
  • Enabling institutional credit to the farmers
    • The government is also trying to bring all farmers into the fold of institutional credit.
    • The target is to bring more than six crore farmers into the Kisan Credit Card (KCC) regime.
    • The States and banks have been advised to issue KCCs within 15 days of application by the farmers.
    • The charges which were being levied by the banks, including documentation and inspection charges, have been waived.

 

PM-KISAN launched to provide supplemental income to farmers who most need it:

  • It is important to keep in mind that the average annual income of small and marginal farmers is well below the average income of all farmers.
  • The smaller the land holding, the greater is the need for financial support.
  • There are about 12.50 crore small and marginal farmer families in India.
  • Keeping this in mind, the PM-KISAN scheme was announced to provide small and marginal farmers assured supplemental income and also meet their emergent expenses, especially immediately after harvest.
  • The scheme is designed to be sustainable and will increase the confidence of small and marginal farmers.

Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN):

  • In a bid to reduce farmer’s distress, the government, in the Interim Budget 2019, has introduced PM-KISAN, an annual income support scheme for small and marginal farmers.
  • PM-KISAN is a structured income support scheme for small and marginal farmers owning less than 2 hectares of land.
  • It is a direct cash transfer scheme providing Rs. 6,000 per annumin three equal installments of Rs. 2,000 each.
  • This programme will entail an annual expenditure of Rs 75,000 crore, and will be fully funded by the Central government.

How it works:

  • The government has developed a portal for managing the scheme.
  • The States have to upload the data of the beneficiaries on the portal.
  • The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare will transfer the benefit directly into the accounts of the beneficiaries.
  • The amount will be credited into the account of the beneficiary within 48 hours of its release by the government.

 

PM-KISAN has shortcomings:

  • Support not enough: PM-KISAN's Rs. 2,000 every four months is not sufficient to remove the stress on farmers with two hectares of land.
  • Ignores other small farmers: The scheme ignores many other small farmers like the share-croppers and tenant farmers.
  • Land records not proper: In most states, land records, especially in rural areas, have not been sorted.

 

New India also needs modern farming practices:

  • New India requires modern irrigation facilities.
  • It needs scientific and modern technological knowledge that can help and guide in reducing costs.
  • Rapid transition to cost-effective organic farming is also needed.
  • Indian farmers need timely delivery of inputs and transport systems to enable commercialisation of agricultural products and activities.
  • There is also the need to build rural infrastructure in markets and give tariff protection against subsidised imports.

 

Importance:

GS Paper III: Economy

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Section : Editorial Analysis

 

A new innovation era Editorial 9th Feb’19 TimesOfIndia

 

Improving safeguards for Intellectual Property in India:

  • Policy decisions and court judgements in the recent times in India have signalled its position on innovation and creativity.
  • Recent Examples:
    • The Drugs (Prices Control) Amendment Order, 2019 exempted new drugs patented under the Indian Patent Act from the price control order for five years from the date of their marketing.
    • A draft amendment to the Indian Cinematograph Act of 1952 with the aim of countering and criminalising film piracy is also in the works.
    • In early 2019, the Supreme Court recently upheld Monsanto’s patent on genetically modified cotton seeds. 

Has been happening for a few years now:

  • This growing pro-innovation narrative in India has been in the works over the years.
  • The government has gradually invested in a series of incremental initiatives to improve the country’s innovation ecosystem.
  • The steps are guided by the vision of the 2016 National Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Policy.
  • The 2017 Guidelines on the Examination of Computer-Related Inventions significantly improved the patentability environment for technological innovations.

In sync with other broader economic reforms in India:

  • Along with efforts at improving IP climate, India has been taking up broad economic reforms, as captured by other global indices.
  • In the 2018 World Bank Doing Business Report, India was ranked the top global improver for a second consecutive year.
  • In the 2018 WEF Global Competitiveness Report, India registered the largest gain of any country in the G20.

 

International IP Index:

  • The International Intellectual Property Index (IP Index), by the US Chamber of Commerce’s Global Innovation Policy Centre, analyses the IP climate in 50 countries, covering over 90% of global GDP.
  • It ranks economies based on 45 unique indicators that benchmark activity critical to building an innovation-led economy supported by robust patent, trademark, copyright, and trade secrets protection.
  • It presents a data-driven view of global competitiveness based on the business community’s investment criteria.

India rising up in the ranks:

  • In the latest edition of the International IP Index in 2019, India’s rank moved up to 36 among 50 economies.
  • This represent a jump of eight places from 44 in 2018.
  • India's rise reflects the importance that India’s policymakers are placing on building an innovation ecosystem.
  • For the second year in a row, India’s score represents the largest gain of any country measured on the Index.
    • India has again emerged as the top global improver, while also seeing a big leap in the rankings.

Steps taken by India to improve its IP environment:

  • The increase in India’s score and rank in the IP index can be attributed to reforms that better align India’s IP environment with the international IP system. Various steps include:
    • Accession to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) Internet Treaties, which  shows India's recognition of International standards of copyright protection
    • IP incentives for small business, and administrative reforms to address the patent backlog
    • India's agreement in principle to start a bilateral Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) program on a pilot basis in the first quarter of fiscal year 2019
  • India also performed well on some of the Index’s new indicators:
    • India scored full points on the tax incentives for creation of IP assets.
    • On targeted IP incentives for small business – including expedited review for patent filings, reduced filing fees, and technical assistance – India came out as the world leader.

 

Many issues remain on protecting IP in India:

  • To maintain the momentum on safeguarding Intellectual Property, much work remains to be done.
  • Innovators continue to be discouraged by superfluous patentability requirements, lengthy pre-grant opposition procedures, and lack of regulatory data protection.
  • A coherent trade secrets law is absent.
  • If a patent is granted, enforcement of its full term of 20 years remains a challenge. Many companies, especially pharmaceuticals, complain of the price controls on patented products, or the threat of compulsory licenses.
  • Online piracy is rampant.
  • A lack of enforcement capacity to seize counterfeit goods hurts businesses.

 

Way ahead - Streamlining India's IP framework:

  • India's potential leap to transformative innovation requires a system of intellectual property rights that enables significant, risky, long-term investments.
  • Indian policymakers will need to streamline the country’s overall IP framework to better support transformative innovation and inspire creativity.
  • The assets of tomorrow’s economy, in the age of Fourth Industrial Revolution, are intangible: know-how, information, and data.
  • All countries need to master IPR to create a market for these assets and prepare for tomorrow’s intangible economy.

 

 

Importance:

GS Paper III: Sci-Tech

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Section : Editorial Analysis

 

View within RBI: Rate cut needed now, inflationary fear not a worry

Why in news?

  • Recently, the RBI's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) headed by RBI governor has opted to cut the key policy rates based on real-time analysis, based on the findings of its surveys, prevailing market conditions and extensive consultations with stakeholders.

 

Key Highlights of the RBI's Bi-monthly Monetary Policy Statement:

  • Repo rate under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) has been reduced by 25 basis points to 6.25%.
  • Consequently, the reverse repo rate under the LAF stands adjusted to 6.0 per cent, and the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate and the Bank Rate to 6.5 per cent.
  • Cash Reserve Ratio held constant at 4%
  • The MPC has changed the Monetary Policy stance from 'calibrated tightening' to 'neutral'.

 

The policy decisions by MPC were based on the following:

  • Inflation under control: Food inflation is expected to remain low because of good winter crop, espcially higher wheat yield due to favourable weather conditions.
  • Improvement in consumer and business confidence: There is improvement in consumer confidence as well as business confidence, along with an improvement in capacity utilisation by industry. With buyer sentiment improving, demand in several other sectors is expected to rise.
  • Investment Boost: The lower interest rates are expected to provide a boost to investment in the manufacturing sectors which are facing capacity constraints and will bridge the gap in the coming months.
  • On business expectations, it is expected that there will be an improvement across the board, from production, to order book and capacity utilisation.
  • It is also been expected that there will be increase in investment, employment and income a year down the line.

Note to students: The information here is only to understand the thought process behind MPC decision-making. It could be useful in evaluating MPC's performance at some stage.

 

Read the detailed report on Monetary Policy Statement:

https://newlms.vajiramandravi.com/current-affairs/rbi-rate-cut-likely-to-spur-growth-hopes/5c5d4dd04541fc5fd1bcfdf1/ 

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Section : Economics

 

Govt brings 8 new medical devices under regulatory regime

The News

  • Recently, the Health ministry has brought in eight new devices (such as implants, X-ray machines, MRI and CT scan equipment, and dialysis machines) under the purview of Drugs and Cosmetics Act, by notifying them as 'drugs' with effect from April 1, 2020.
  • The decision was taken in consultation with the Drugs Technical Advisory Board (the country’s highest drug advisory body).

 

India's medical device Industry

  • The medical devices industry in India is rapidly growing and is projected to reach $50 billion by 2025.
  • Currently, India is the fourth-largest medical devices market in Asia after Japan, China and South Korea. However, nearly 80% of the medical devices used in India are imported.

 

Aim of the move

  • To regulate quality of commonly used devices which are critical to healthcare.

 

News Summary

  • In January 2019, Niti Aayog proposed Medical Device Regulation Bill which would ensure quality and efficacy of all medical devices sold in the country.
  • The first stakeholders meeting of The Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) was also held recently, which took following key decisions:
    • It was decided to bring all critical devices under the regulatory scanner by making it mandatory for manufacturers and importers to register all such products in the country and carry the details on their labels, making them traceable.
    • In case of serious adverse events caused from the products, companies will have to report those.
    • A national web portal has been suggested to be created wherein all manufacturers and importers will be required to register with details about their manufacturing site, product expiry date etc.
  • The committee is again scheduled to meet next week and is likely to make final recommendations to the health ministry after the next meeting.

 

Drug Regulation in India

  • Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) are the main regulatory bodies that are responsible for overseeing pharmaceuticals and medical devices within India.
  • The CDSCO exercises regulatory control over the import of drugs and devices, and approves new medical products and clinical trials.
  • The CDSCO also oversees the Drugs Consultative Committee (DCC), the Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB), and the Central Licensing Approving Authority (CLAA), the body responsible for ensuring medical device compliance.

The Drugs and Cosmetics Act

  • The manufacturing, importing, sale, and distribution of pharmaceuticals and active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) in India are regulated under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act 1940 and Drugs and Cosmetic Rules 1945.
  • Under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, the regulation of the manufacturing, sale, and distribution of drugs and devices is primarily the concern of state authorities.
  • Central authorities are responsible for approving new drugs, controlling the quality of imported drugs, coordinating the activities of state organizations, and providing expert advice in order to bring about a uniformity in the enforcement of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act.

The Medical Devices Rules

  • Medical devices and in vitro diagnostics (IVDs) in India are regulated under the Medical Device Rules that came into effect in 2018. It provided guidelines for fundamental design and manufacturing requirements for 594 medical devices, and classified them into four categories (A,B,C and D) depending on their being high-risk or low-risk.
  • But its regulation continues to be under the aegis of the Drugs and Cosmetic Act 1940.
  • Majority of medical devices are completely unregulated in India.
  • Presently, only 23 medical devices are notified as 'drugs'. These devices are regulated under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act. For all other devices, there is no mechanism with the government to regulate quality or efficacy.
  • To fulfill Medical device industry’s demand to have a new and separate act (from drugs and pharma) for medical devices as per global best practises, Medical Device Regulation Bill has been proposed.

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Section : Social Issues

 

What impact will the thundershowers, hailstorm have on rabi crop?

The topic

  • Recently, there was heavy rainfall and hailstorms in the many areas of northern India.
  • This articles assesses the impact of heavy rainfall and hailstorms on rabi crops.

 

Background

  • In early February, the National Capital Region, Punjab, Haryana, parts of Uttar Pradesh and northern Madhya Pradesh witnessed heavy rainfall and hailstorms.
  • According to the Meteorological department, the source of the thundershowers was a fresh Western Disturbance. Further fresh Western Disturbance are also expected.
  • This will affect the Rabi crops in these regions.

 

About Rabi crops

  • ”Rabi” is an Arabic word for “spring”.
  • Harvesting of the winter crops happens in the springtime, thus these crops are called as Rabi crops.
  • The Rabi season usually starts in November and lasts up to March or April.
  • Rabi crops are mainly cultivated using irrigation as monsoon rains are already over by November.
  • Moreover, the unseasonal showers in winter seasons can ruin the crops.
  • Wheat, barley, mustard and green peas are some of the major Rabi crops of India and different crops require different climatic conditions. For example:
    • Wheat
      • It requires cool temperatures during its growing season in the range of about 14°c to 18°c.
      • Rainfall of about 50 cms to 90 cms is most ideal.
      • However, during harvesting season in the spring, wheat requires bright sunshine and slightly warmer temperatures.
    • Mustard
      • It requires a subtropical climate to grow which is a dry and cool climate.
      • The temperature range to grow mustard is between 10°c to 25°c.
    • Therefore, the heavy rainfall and hailstorms differently impact various Rabi crops based on various stages of crop production.

 

Assessment of impact of rainfall and hailstorms on different Rabi crops this season

Negative impact

  • Heavy rains during this period have negative impact on the mustard, chana (chickpea) and potato crops that are about to mature or in early-harvesting stage.
  • Mustards
    • This crop that is usually planted during the first half of October, and in early February would be in the pod-filling stage (the beginning of the last stage ripening), where the flowers and seeds have already taken shape and size.
    • The kernels would have been accumulating starch, fat and protein matter.
    • Hence, rains during this time can impact the yields negatively.
    • Moreover, if the rain continues, the environment will become helpful for fungal diseases such as sclerotinia stem rot and alternaria blight.
    • Such diseases could result in the premature ripening of the crop or the pods producing dry, shrinking or discoloured seeds.
    • The rains are more likely to damage early-sown crops, sown in the last week of September, which would have been ready for harvesting.
  • Other crops:
    • Many other Rabi crops are harvested during February-March like Chana, Masur (lentil), Potato, Jeera (cumin-seed) and Dhania (coriander).
    • These might already be in its final stages of grain-filling or ripening stages.
    • The risk of rainfall and hailstorm is more for such crops.
  • In the worst scenario, experts are predicting the repeat of conditions as was in March 2015, when the winter rainfall and hailstorm affected the total area of 182 lakh hectares in North, West and central India.

 

Positive impact

  • The positive impact of winter rainfall can be predicted for Wheat, as this crop is sown by mid-November and currently would be in the late-tillering stage, when it produces multiple side stems.
  • Only the wheat crops sown early in the end of October may get negatively affected.
  • In fact, rains will have following benefits for the timely or late-sown wheat crops-
  • It will provide additional round of irrigation to the crops.
  • It will reduce the temperatures and prolong the winter, which is good for yields.

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Section : Economics

 

Vet institute, ambulances mooted in lion conservation plan

The News

  • In a bid to step up conservation and protection efforts of critically endangered ‘Asiatic Lions, the Centre and the Gujarat government have announced a 3-year dedicated ‘Asiatic Lion Conservation Project’.

 

Background

About Asiatic Lions

  • Asiatic Lions are critically endangered species, listed in the Schedule 1 of Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, Appendix I of CITES and endangered on IUCN Red List.
  • Asiatic lions were once distributed in dry deciduous forests and scrublands from West Bengal in east to Rewa, MP in the west.
  • Currently, the last surviving population of the Asiatic lions is confined to Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary, which is the only habitat of the Asiatic lion.
  • According to 2015 census, there are currently 523 Asiatic lion in India compared to about 50 in 1980s.

 

Need for the conservation project

  • In the recent years, there is a rise in number of deaths of Asian Lions due to various unnatural causes.
  • According to estimates, the numbers of deaths of Asiatic Lions are 104 and 80 in 2016 and 2017 respectively.
  • The main reason for death of Asiatic lions:
    • Construction of open wells in their habitat
    • Electrocution
    • A viral disease known as Canine Distemper Disease. (a majority of deaths in 2018 are reported to be due to CDD)
  • Further, Asiatic Lions are long-neglected with low allocation in conservation plans; Rs. 95000/ lion as compared to 15 Lakh/ individual in case of tigers.

 

About Asiatic Lion Conservation Project

  • Asiatic Lion Conservation Project will be a 3-year centrally sponsored scheme funded from CSS-Development of Wildlife Habitat (CSS-DWH) with centre-state contribution ratio of 60:40.
  • It focuses both on protection and conservation of the lion species.
  • It is mainly based on ‘species conservation over a large landscape” approach. Accordingly, Zone Plans and Theme Plans are developed.
  • Zone Plans include expansion of habitat and developing a Greater Gir region including Girnar, Pania and Mitiyala.
    • The Greater Gir region is then divided into Core Zone, the Sanctuary Zone, the buffer Zone for different levels of conservation.
  • Theme Plans include habitat improvement, protection, wildlife health service, addressing to man-wild animal conflict issues, research and monitoring, awareness generation, and ecotourism.

 

Main features of the project

  • Habitat improvement,
  • Bringing together multi-sectoral agencies for disease control.
  • Stepping up veterinary care by construction of veterinary hospitals
  • back-up stocks of vaccines that may be required
  • Increasing the number of lion ambulances.
  • ICT-driven monitoring and surveillance systems including
    • GPS Based Tracking
    • Automated Sensor Grid with magnetic sensors, movement sensors, infra-red heat sensors
    • Night vision capability enhancement
    • GIS based real time monitoring and reporting
  • A wildlife crime cell to step up protection
  • Creating a task force for the Greater Gir region
  • Establishment of additional water points

 

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Section : Environment & Ecology

 

Patent challenge mounted against J&J’s attempt to extend monopoly on high-priced anti-TB drug

The News

  • Two TB patients have filed a petition challenging Johnson & Johnson’s application for extension of patent for Bedaquiline, the anti-TB drug.

Background

  • Drug-resistant TB:
    • The bacteria causing TB have developed Multi-Drug Resistance and Extreme-Drug Resistance even to the most powerful anti-TB drugs, Isoniazid and Rifampicin.
    • About 1.47 lakh people in India suffer from multi drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB).
  • Bedaquiline drug for treatment is too expensive:
    • The WHO has recommended Bedaquiline as a new-generation drug for Multi-drug resistant TB patients.
    • However, Bedaquiline is extremely expensive about $400 pe patient per regimen and thus unaffordable to majority of patients in India.
    • At present, a mere 2% of over the patients suffering from MDR-TB in India are currently getting Bedaquiline.
    • India is getting about 10,000 free courses of Bedaquiline under the US-AID programme, but this number is too low.

 

 

India needs to make generics when the patent expires:

  • Thus in order to meet the ambitious goal of ending TB by 2025, India needs make new-gen drugs like Bedaquiline accessible to its vulnerable population.
  • This requires compulsory licensing of Bedaquine in order to be able to make generic version of the drug which will be more accessible and affordable.

 

J&J looking to extend the duration of its patent:

  • Johnson&Johnson company currently holds the patent rights over the basic molecule of Bedaquiline till 2023.
  • The company has sought an extension of patent rights or secondary patent on the fumarate salt of Bedaquiline drug for 4 more years from 2023 to 2027.

 

 

Secondary Patent and Evergreening: A brief

  • In order to protect the patent rights of a pharma company over a drug, primary patent is issued.
  • Primary patent is issued over the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) of a drug usually of 20 years. 
  • During the 20 years, the drug is usually expensive as an incentive to the research efforts of the company holding the patent rights.
  • At the end of 20 years, generic versions of the drug are allowed to be manufactured and thus the prices of the drug come down.
  • As a strategy to continue getting profits keeping the price of the drug high, the pharma companies adopt strategies called secondary patents or evergreening.
  • Secondary patents are usually sought for derivatives and variants of the API, a new formulation, a dosage regimen, or a new method of administering the medicine.
  • This strategy of extending the patent rights beyond the 20 year period by seeking secondary patents even before the expiry of primary patent is called ‘Evergreening’.
  • Section 3(d) of the Indian Patents Act provides an effective defence against secondary patents misuse and thus evergreening in India.
  • According to Section 3(d) in order to be eligible for secondary patent, the drug must demonstrate significant improvement in therapeutic efficacy and not just change in formulation of the drug. 

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Section : Science & Tech

 

Prelims Program: Map- Teesta River

Why important?

  • Teesta water sharing dispute is one of the most contentious issues between India and Bangladesh.

 

Teesta River

  • Teesta river originates in the Himalayas and flows through Sikkim and West Bengal to merge with the Brahmaputra in Assam (Jamuna in Bangladesh).

  • The Teesta River originates as Chhombo Chhu from a glacial lake, Khangchung Chho (Cholamu Lake), in the northeast Indian state of Sikkim.
  • The glacial lake is located at the tip of the Teesta Khangse glacier, which descends from Pauhunri  peak, and flows southward through gorges and rapids in the Sikkim Himalaya
  • It forms the border between Sikkim and West Bengal.
  • States: West Bengal and Sikkim
  • Cities: Rangpo, Kalimpong, Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling
  • It is the fourth largest transboundary river shared between India and Bangladesh after Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna river systems.
  • Major Tributaries of Teesta River
    • Left-bank Tributaries: Lachung Chhu, Chakung Chhu, Dik Chhu, Rani Khola and Rangpo Chhu.
    • Right- bank Tributaries: Zemu Chhu, Rangyong Chhu and Rangit River.
  • Major projects and dams:
    • Teesta -V dam on Teesta in Dikchu, East Sikkim district.
    • Rangit III hydroelectric project on Rangit River which is a tributary of Teesta River.
  • It is a tributary of Brahmaputra, and joins Brahmaputra near Rangpur in Bangladesh.

 

Note:

Important tributaries of Brahmaputra includes:

  • Right Bank Tributories: Dibang, Siang, Subansiri, Barnadi, Manas, Sankosh, Teesta
  • Left Bank Tributories: Kolong, Dhansiri, Burhi-Dihingand Lohit

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Section : Miscellaneous

 

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