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Daily Current affairs 30 January 2019

UPSC - Daily Current Affair

 

NITI proposes law to regulate quality of medical devices

The News

  • Recently, NITI Aayog has proposed to finalize the draft of Medical Device Regulation Bill for comprehensive regulation of the medical devices in India.
  • The legislation would ensure quality and efficacy of a range of medical devices ranging from blood pressure monitoring equipments, to diagnostic devices like X-ray and MRI machines as well as high-end implants like stents and orthopaedic devices.

 

Need of Regulating Medical device industry:

  • India's $7 billion medical devices industry has emerged as the fourth-largest medical devices market in Asia after Japan, China and South Korea. It is projected to grow $50 billion by 2025.
  • Despite the growing prominence, the sector's regulation and management is done under the 1940 Drugs and Cosmetics Act.
  • Currently, only 23 categories of medical devices are regulated as ‘drugs’ under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940. However, approximately 5000 medical devices are being sold in the country.
  • Lack of specific technical expertise in the current set up to regulate the sector is a concern.
  • Also, 80% of the medical devices in India are imported, and there is a need to create level playing field for domestic and foreign manufacturers.
  • Consider all the above reasons, a regulatory legislation has been mooted.

 

 

Background to the Bill

  • Medical Device Regulation Bill was first drafted in 2006, but never legislated.
  • In 2016, a decision was taken to postpone its legislation and introduce the Medical Device Rules and Regulations.
  • The new medical device rules which came into force from January 2018, 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.
  • 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, the draft bill has been proposed.

 

Draft of Medical Device Regulation Bill:

  • It suggests a separate regulatory structure for manufacturing and marketing of all kinds of medical devices.
  • It includes standards that companies will be required to follow while seeking marketing approval for their products.
  • There will be testing and clinical trial requirements specific to devices.
  • It also recommends a separate regulator for medical devices.
  • It also suggests penalty provisions in case of violations.

 

Significance

  • While ensuring quality and safety of medical devices, the legislation will also facilitate ‘Make in India’ and enhance ease of doing business.
  • The legislation is also promising for achieving the main goals of the National Health Policy 2017 that calls for addressing the changing priorities in Indian healthcare, mainly bridging the accessibility and affordability gap.

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Section : Social Issues

 

Include Chin refugees in citizenship Bill: Chakma NGOs

The News:

  • Recently, some Chakma NGOs have submitted a memorandum to the Ministry of Home Affairs, for the inclusion of Chin refugees (from Myanmar) in India by further amending the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

 

Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016: in brief

  • The Bill seeks provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who came to India before December 31, 2014.
  • The Bill has already been passed by the Lok Sabha and pending in the Rajya Sabha.

 

About Chin People

  • The Chin are actually several groups of people from the Chin State on the western side of Burma (Myanmar).
  • Reason for fleeing from Myanmar:
    • Chins, who are mostly Christians, have been fleeing their homeland following the attempt by the majority community in Myanmar to make Buddhism the state religion, which lead to their persecution on religious grounds.
    • They reportedly face severe discrimination, abuse, persecution, detention and deportation in Myanmar.
    • Many refugees have also fled complaining of arbitrary arrests, sexual assault and repression by security forces after the 1988 declaration of martial law.
    • Chins in India:
    • According to a Human Rights Watch report, there are an estimated 100,000 Chins in Mizoram, which is 20% of the total Chin population in Myanmar.
    • An unspecified number of Chins are also residing in Manipur, who are ethnically related to the majority Mizos of Mizoram and the Kuki-Zomi groups in Manipur.
    • Chins elsewhere:
      • Besides India, many Chins have taken refuge in Malaysia and Thailand among other countries and have been issued UNHCR refugee cards following their registration locally.

 

A few Chins have Refugee Status

  • About 4,000 Chin refugees registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and have been issued refugee cards .

 

India not obliged to give them refuge :

  • Since India is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention or the 1967 Protocol, the UNHCR cards issued to Chin refugees don’t automatically allow them the right to stay in India or have any legal validity to be able to open bank accounts or seek admission in educational institutions.
  • But they do help the refugees in applying for long-term visas.

 

News Summary:

  • Some Chakma organisations of the Chakma community appealed to the Centre to further amend the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill for including Myanmar along with Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
  • This would mean the possibility of Indian citizenship to Chin refugees in India.

 

JPC rejected inclusion of Myanmar and Sri Lanka in the Bill:

  • The Joint Parliamentary Committee that submitted its recommendations to the Centre after a series of discussions with stakeholders had rejected suggestions to include minorities from Myanmar and Sri Lanka.
  • Note: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has decided to lift the refugee status over the Chins of Myanmar. It said that the situation in the Chin State of Myanmar has become stable and secure for them to return home and, therefore, they don’t need international protection.

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Section : Polity & Governance

 

Rajasthan Zika strain is endemic to Asia, says new study

The News

  • The researchers from National Institute of Virology have concluded that Zika virus circulating in India is endemic to Asia

 

Background

  • India recently witnessed its largest outbreak of the the Zika virus in Rajasthan.
  • In the aftermath the US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had issued level-2 travel alert for pregnant women travelling to India.
  • According to ICMR, the Rajasthan virus was closely related to a virus that had caused epidemics in Latin America in 2015.
  • In a change of stance, the latest research of NIV has confirmed that Zika virus responsible for outbreak in Rajasthan is endemic to Asia and not related to Brazilian virus strain.

 

Key Result of genome sequencing

  • In accordance with the latest genome sequencing of the virus by the National Institute of Virology, the virus related to the outbreak in Rajasthan is endemic to Asia and may be even to India.

Significance of endemicity

  • The good news is that since the virus is endemic the population is exposed to the virus and has already developed mass immunity.
  • However, endemicity could also mean that the previous conclusion of ICMR that the virus responsible for outbreak in Rajasthan is not linked to microcephaly could be false.
  • Also, it is said that the Indian strain is less virulent and contains no mutation in its genome responsible for microcephaly, we need to be cautious on the development of microcephaly.

 

About Microcephaly-Zika link

  • There is a strong correlation between the incidence of microcephaly in babies born to Zika-infected pregnant women.
  • According to National Brain Research Centre a mutation in the viral gene codes for a protein called Envelope (E) protein in Zika virus that affects normal properties of brain stem cells leading to microcephaly.

 

About Zika virus

  • Zika is a viral infection spread by Aedes aegypti mosquito.
  • It belongs to a group of viruses called the flaviviruses, which also causes dengue, West Nile and yellow fever.
  • Zika virus infect and replicate inside the cells of several species, including humans, monkeys, and mosquitoes.
  • Currently there is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.
  • According to the World Health Organisation’s classification scheme on the prevalence of Zika, India is in category 2 – indicating ongoing transmission of the virus.

 

Transmission

  • The infection is acquired via mosquito bite.
  • Pregnant woman who contracts Zika transmits the virus to her growing fetus.
  • Sexual contact or blood transfusions can also transmit Zika.

 

 


Symptoms

  • Symptoms of Zika virus disease are similar to other viral infections such as dengue, and include fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise, and headache.
  • The Zika virus is known to be associated with a birth-defect called microcephaly where the babies are born with small and underdeveloped brains.
  • Microcephaly may involve neurological problems or developmental delays.
  • In some rare cases, it may be linked with Guillain-Barré syndrome which is an autoimmune condition that causes paralysis, which is usually temporary.

 

 

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Section : Social Issues

 

Success for golden langur breeding project in Assam

The News

  • With the birth of the female offspring, the Assam State Zoo has been successful in the Golden Langur Conservation Breeding Programme started in 2011-12.

 

 

 

Golden Langur Conservation Breeding Programme

  • Golden Langur Conservation Project is a habitat conservation project initiated in areas adjacent to Manas National Park.
  • Since golden langur is endemic to north-western Assam, the Central Zoo Authority in 2011 had entrusted Assam State Zoo with the project for the conservation breeding of golden langur.
  • The project covers an area of around 23 sq km in a contiguous forest patch in the Manas National Park on the west and the Royal Manas national park of Bhutan on the north.

 

About Golden Langur

 

  • Golden langur is one of the most endangered primate species of India and one of the ‘World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates’.
  • Golden Langurs are endemic to the semi-evergreen and mixed-deciduous forests of Indo-Bhutan border.
  • In India, golden langurs are confined to about 2,500 square kilometer between the rivers Manas in the east, Sankosh in the west and Brahmaputra in the south in Assam.
  • The world’s smallest river island Umananda, on the Brahmaputra near Guwahati, is known to be the home for golden langurs.
  • In Bhutan, Golden langurs are found at the foothills of the Black Mountains.
  • However, the number of golden langurs has declined due to:
    • Habitat destruction due to extensive fragmentation
    • Lack of breeding
    • Lack of food

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Section : Environment & Ecology

 

China's Bhutan outreach worries India

The News

  • The repeated visits to Bhutan of ‘Chinese ambassador to India’ reflect that China is seeking to intensify its engagement with Bhutan.

 

 

 

Background

  • China doesn’t have any diplomatic relations with Bhutan.
  • Diplomatic relations between India and Bhutan were established in 1968 with the establishment of a special office of India in Thimphu.
  • The bilateral relations between Bhutan and India have been traditionally close and both countries share a 'special relationship', making Bhutan a protected state, but not a protectorate, of India.
  • However, some recent events are reflecting deterioration in Indian-Bhutan relations, signaling Bhutan’s intention to reduce its dependence on India.
  • Bhutan’s new government wants to reduce the country’s excessive reliance on hydropower which it exports to India.
  • Now, it can be seen that China is taking on this opportunity to attract Bhutan towards itself.

 

Highlights of the news

  • China is seeking to intensify engagement with Bhutan by repeated visits of the ambassadors to the country.
  • The ambassador will be accompanied by a cultural delegation from China which will perform on the occasion of the Chinese Spring Festival.

 

Foreign Policy challenge to India

  • China’s Bhutan outreach poses a significant foreign policy challenge for India as follows:
    • Reducing dependency on India: India's share of trade with Bhutan accounted for 80 per cent of Bhutan's total trade, with Bhutan’s reducing its excessive reliance on hydropower, of which India is the largest exporter; it already reflects that Bhutan wants to reduce dependency on India.
    • Diversifying economy: By drifting from India, the new government in Bhutan is likely to tilt towards China as a potential partner in its efforts to diversify its economy, which may affect Bhutan-India relations.
    • China taking on the opportunity: As soon as the Bhutan expressed its intention to diversify its trade, China was quick to take on more trade opportunities in Bhutan.
    • BRI and Border issue: India and Bhutan has been the ally in solving the border disputes and Bhutan is the only Indian neighbour to have resisted the temptation so far to join BRI but repeated visits of Chinese ambassador convincing Bhutan to actively participate in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and share China’s “development dividend” is aimed at attracting Bhutan towards China.

 

India’s efforts towards normalizing India-Bhutan relations

  • India had announced that India will provide grant assistance of Rs 4500 crore for Bhutan’s 12th Five Year Plan.
  • A transitional Trade Support Facility of Rs 400 Crore over a period of five years to strengthen bilateral trade and economic linkages.

 

Way forward

  • If Bhutan wants better relations with China, India should not pretend to be its rival, rather let Bhutan build its own foreign policy.
  • India should remain mindful of China’s engagement with Bhutan with regard to the territorial and boundary domain.
  • However, India should make efforts towards improving its own ties with China as well as Bhutan.

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Section : International Relation

 

Think universal basic capital Editorial 30th Jan’19 TheHindu

India economically growing but lagging in terms of human development:

  • India’s GDP is growing quite well.
  • However, India needs to do much better to improve overall human development.
  • India's poorer sub-continental neighbours are improving health and education faster, while India continues to be compared with countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Benefits must reach the poorest faster:

  • A lot more must be done to improve education and health care, and to address the persistent informality and small scale of enterprises that are providing most of the employment in the country.
  • Benefits of India’s economic growth must trickle down much faster to people at the bottom of the pyramid: to poorer farmers, landless rural labour, and hundreds of millions of workersin low-paying, ‘flexible’ forms of employment with no social security.

 

Solutions offered to solve economy's problems:

  • Economists offer some solutions to the economy’s structural problems. These include
  1. More privatisation:
  • Some economists suggest that, as the government is unable to provide public services efficiently, there is need for greater privatisation of .
  • However, the private sector is structurally not designed to provide affordable public services equitably.
  • Businesses must be run with a profit motive. They cannot take on the burden of subsidising citizens who cannot pay for their services.
  1. A universal basic income (UBI) to be provided by the state:
  • UBI has been proposed as a solution to the declining growth of wage incomes (lower incomes will lead to reduction of consumption and consequently demand for goods and services).
  • The proposed ‘universal’ basic income will be an income provided to everybody, and avoids messy political questions about who deserves assistance. 
  • But will UBI solve all the problems?
    • UBI in its truest form side-steps the challenge of actually providing the services required: education, health, food, etc.
    • It gives people cash and the services can be availed from the market.
    • However, this will succeed only if good quality and affordable education and health are available.
    • But if neither the government nor the private sector is able or willing to, this will not solve the basic human development problems that must be solved.

Quasi-UBI as an alternative to UBI:

  • Some economists who were proponents of UBI, have begun to dilute their simplistic concept of UBI to make it financially and politically feasible.
  • They propose a QUBRI (quasi-universal basic rural income), targeted only at poorer people in the rural areas (Quasi because it is not actually universal but universal to a certain segment - like all farmers or all poor rural people).
  • Issues with this:
    • This scheme is no longer universal.
    • It will exclude the not-so-poor in rural areas but political questions (and thus its implementability) will remain about who should be included.
    • It will not cover the masses of urban poor working for low and uncertain wages.
      • Schemes will have to drawn for urban poor also: Therefore, some other schemes will have to be drawn up for the urban sector, and entitlement and measurement issues will have to be addressed for these schemes too.
  • Questions will still remain on provision of services:
    • All the schemes, rural and urban, could be cash transfer schemes, which Aadhar and the digitisation of financial services will facilitate.
    • However, the question about how to provide good quality public services for people to buy still remains.

 

Three alternative solutions than UBI/QUBI to create more equitable growth

  1. Focus on building state capacity:
  • There is a need to strengthen of institutions of the state:
    • To improve States' capacity to provide services:
      • An unavoidable solution to fix India’s fundamental problems is the strengthening of institutions of the state to deliver the services.
      • The state must provide basic services (public safety, justice, and basic education and health), which should be available to all citizens regardless of their ability to pay for them.
    • To regulation private sector providing the services
      • The institutions of the state must be strengthened also to regulate delivery of services by the private sector and ensure fair competition in the market.

For this capabilities must be developed:

  • A simplistic UBI will not solve the fundamental problems of the economy.
  • The building of state institutions, to deliver and to regulate, will require stronger management, administrative, and political capabilities.

 

  1. Strengthen aggregation of tiny enterprises and representation of workers.

Economic inequality must be reduced:

  • Some economists say that inequality does not matter so long as poverty is being reduced.
  • However, economic inequality does matter because it increases social and political inequalities.
  • Those with more wealth change the rules of the game to protect and increase their wealth and power.
  • Thus, opportunities for progress become unequal.
  • This is why economic inequality must be reduced to create a more just society.

For this, strengthen the missing middle-level institutions:

  • In the present economic system, people at the top can make more profits by driving down prices and wages for people at the bottom.
  • Tiny enterprises have very little clout compared with large capitalist enterprises; and individual workers have little power compared with their employers.
  • Therefore, terms of trade remain unfair for small enterprises, and terms of employment unfair for unorganised workers.
  • The solution is the aggregation of the small into larger associations, cooperatives, and unions. Aggregations of small producers, and unions of workers, can negotiate for more fair terms.

 

  1. Universal Basic Capital:
  • Some economists say a better solution to structural inequality than UBI is UBC (universal basic capital).
  • People as shareholders of their collective enterprises: In this alternative approach, people own the wealth they generate as shareholders of their collective enterprises. Amul, SEWA, Grameen, and others are examples of this.
  • A ‘dividend’ for all citizens from enterprises using public assets: Some economists go further and propose a ‘dividend’ for all citizens, by providing them a share of initial public offerings on the stock market, especially from companies that use ‘public assets’ (such as publicly funded research, or environmental resources).

 

Importance:

GS Paper III: Economy

 

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Section : Editorial Analysis

 

Prelims Program: The Arctic Council

The Arctic Council

  • The Arctic Council is the leading intergovernmental forum promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States, Arctic indigenous communities and other Arctic inhabitants on common Arctic issues.
  • It deals on issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic.
  • The Arctic Council is a forum and it has no programming budget. All projects or initiatives are sponsored by one or more Arctic States. Some projects also receive support from other entities.
  • The Arctic Council’s mandate explicitly excludes military security.

 

Members and Observers

  • The Ottawa Declaration lists the following countries as Members of the Arctic Council:
    • Canada
    • The Kingdom of Denmark
    • Finland
    • Iceland
    • Norway
    • The Russian Federation
    • Sweden
    • The United States

 

  • Observer status in the Arctic Council is open to:
    • Non-arctic states
    • Inter-governmental and inter-parliamentary organizations, global and regional
    • Non-governmental organizations
  • Thirteen Non-arctic States have been approved as Observers to the Arctic Council:
    • France
    • Germany
    • Italian Republic
    • Japan
    • The Netherlands
    • People's Republic of China
    • Poland
    • Republic of India
    • Republic of Korea
    • Republic of Singapore
    • Spain
    • Switzerland
    • United Kingdom
  • Arctic Council Observers primarily contribute through their engagement in the Council at the level of Working Groups.

 

 

 

Secretariat

In Tromsø, Norway

 

Working

The work of the Council is primarily carried out in six Working Groups:

  • The Arctic Contaminants Action Program (ACAP) acts as a mechanism to encourage national actions to reduce emissions and other releases of pollutants.
  • The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) monitors the Arctic environment, ecosystems and human populations, and provides scientific advice to support governments as they tackle pollution and adverse effects of climate change.
  • The Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna Working Group (CAFF) addresses the conservation of Arctic biodiversity, and works to ensure the sustainability of the Arctic’s living resources.
  • The Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response Working Group (EPPR) works to protect the Arctic environment from the threat or impact of an accidental release of pollutants or radionuclides.
  • The Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) Working Group is the focal point of the Arctic Council’s activities related to the protection and sustainable use of the Arctic marine environment.
  • The Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG) works to advance sustainable development in the Arctic and to improve the conditions of Arctic communities as a whole.

 

Agreements

  • The Council has also provided a forum for the negotiation of three important legally binding agreements among the eight Arctic States:
  • The Agreement on Cooperation on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue in the Arctic
  • The Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response
  • The Agreement on Enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation

 

 

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Section : Miscellaneous

 

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