Insights Daily Current Affairs, 18 March 2017
Paper 2 Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
Indian drugmakers face squeeze in U.S. healthcare market
India’s small and medium-sized generic drugmakers are reconsidering, or putting on hold, U.S. expansion plans.
- It is because of the threat of tougher rules and higher barriers for outsiders in the U.S. healthcare market. A more protectionist stance by President Donald Trump, with the prospect of import tariffs and the U.S. boosting local drug manufacturing, mean the operating environment for smaller generic players will get worse.
- Consolidation among U.S. drugs distributors and a federal investigation into drug pricing have also reduced the pricing power of drugsmakers.
- The U.S. drugs regulator, the Food and Drug Administration, has also banned dozens of Indian drug factories from supplying the U.S. market following inspections that found inadequate quality-control practices. Companies have invested significant sums to raise their quality standards.
India supplies nearly a third of medicines sold in the United States, the world’s largest healthcare market. Cut-price generics sold by India’s small- and medium-sized drugmakers have been critical in bringing down prices there.
The new risks come as U.S. revenue growth for these firms is falling. U.S. revenues for Indian drugmakers rose 15% in 2016, half the average annual growth rate of 33% between 2011 and 2015. The growth rate is expected to fall further this year.
Firms that want to focus on the United States will have to increase investment in higher-margin niche therapies, or products requiring specialized manufacturing.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security; money-laundering and its prevention.
Parliamentary panel fumes as NATGRID posts remain vacant
A parliamentary panel has asked the Home Ministry to re-publicise the vacant NATGRID posts and offer remuneration commensurate with that of the private sector to attract the most qualified professionals.
The Union Home Ministry recently informed a parliamentary panel that it couldn’t get qualified IT professionals to fill 35 posts in the National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID), an ambitious intelligence project conceptualised by the United Progressive Alliance government after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks in 2008.
What has the committee said?
The committee observed, “In a country like India, known worldwide for its highly skilled IT professionals, it is simply not acceptable that the non-availability of professionals was the reason for not filling the 35 posts of consultants. The Committee feels that either the Ministry had failed to publicise the posts widely or the remuneration being offered was not attractive enough.”
NATGRID is an ambitious counter terrorism programme, which will utilise technologies like Big Data and analytics to study and analyse the huge amounts of data from various intelligence and enforcement agencies to help track suspected terrorists and prevent terrorist attacks. It will connect, in different phases, data providing organisations and users besides developing a legal structure through which information can be accessed by the law enforcement agencies.
NATGRID is a post Mumbai 26/11 attack measure. It aims to mitigate a vital deficiency — lack of real time information, which was considered to be one of the major hurdles in detecting US terror suspect David Headley’s movement across the country during his multiple visits between 2006 and 2009.
- NATGRID will become a secure centralised database to stream sensitive information from 21 sets of data sources such as banks, credit cards, visa, immigration and train and air travel details, as well as from various intelligence agencies.
- The database would be accessible to authorised persons from 11 agencies on a case-to-case basis, and only for professional investigations into suspected cases of terrorism.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Development processes and the development industry the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders.
Labour code to provide social security cover to all workers
The government has proposed a labour code which will provide social security cover to the entire workforce in the country, including self-employed and agricultural workers.
The code is proposed by the labour ministry.
Highlights of the ‘draft code on Social Security and Welfare’:
- According to the code, even households employing domestic help will also have contribute towards schemes including provident fund and gratuity for the worker. Factories employing even a single worker will have to contribute towards social security benefits, as per the proposal.
- Every working person in the country will be covered under the social security code whether she belongs to the organised sector or the unorganised sector. For the first time, cover to agricultural workers is being provided along with self-employed people. The target is to provide social security benefits to 45 crore workers.
- The proposed code seeks to cover “any factory, any mine, any plantation, any shop, charitable organisations” and all establishments or households employing casual, part-time, fixed-term, informal, apprentice, domestic and home-based workers. All such establishments or factories will be liable to pay compensation if they fail to contribute towards the social security schemes of the workers.
- The total contribution to be made by employers towards Employees’ Provident Fund and Employees’ State Insurance Scheme is proposed to be capped at 30% of the workers’ income. At present, employers contribute 31.5% of the workers’ income towards these schemes.
- According to the proposed code, self-employed workers will contribute 20% of their monthly income towards provident fund, pension and other related schemes. Self-employed workers will also include “a person who takes land on share cropping or any other form of rent, and tills the same using his own or family members’ labour.”
- All the entities – whether factories or households – will have to register their workers through an Aadhaar-based registration system, according to another proposal, and self-employer workers will be required to register themselves.
- Social security benefits unclaimed for five years after becoming due to the worker will be confiscated by the government, according to the proposed code.
National Social Security Council:
A National Social Security Council, chaired by the Prime Minister, has been proposed to streamline and make policy on social security schemes related to all the Ministries. Other members would include: Finance Minister, Labour Minister, Health and Family Welfare Minister along with employer and employees’ representatives.
The council will co-ordinate between central and State governments, monitor the implementation of social security schemes, regulate funds collected under various social security schemes, among others, according to the proposed labour law.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
ICRISAT, ICAR join hands for crop improvement
In a bid to benefit small farmers in India and globally, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) would work together on crop improvement and agronomy programmes for grain legumes and dryland cereals.
- In this regard, ICAR and ICRISAT, recently signed an agreement in which climate smart crops, smart food and digitalisation of breeding database were identified as some of the core areas of research.
- Other areas of focus include – integrating systems modelling tools for upscaling climate resilient agriculture, developing genetic and genomic resources of finger millet and enhancing genetic gains for priority traits.
The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) is an international organisation which conducts agricultural research for rural development, headquartered in Patancheru (Hyderabad, Telangana, India) with several regional centers.
- It was founded in 1972 by a consortium of organisations convened by the Ford and the Rockefeller foundations. Its charter was signed by the FAO and the UNDP.
- Since its inception, host country India has granted a special status to ICRISAT as a UN Organization operating in the Indian territory making it eligible for special immunities and tax privileges.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 1 Topic: Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies.
With India at 148th in number of women MPs, UN official moots quotas
Releasing a world ranking of the number of women parliamentarians that that placed India at number 148, UN Women — the international organisation’s arm for empowering women — has called for reservations for women.
- The rankings of all 193 United Nations member countries were released by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and UN Women.
Performance of various countries:
- In India, women made up 11.8% of the Lok Sabha where 64 were elected to the 542-member house and 11% of the Rajya Sabha with 27 of the 245 members.
- India ranked 88 in the number of women Ministers with five or 18.5% in the cabinet.
- Rwanda ranked first in the number of women parliamentarians with 61.3% in the lower house, followed by Bolivia with 53.1% and Cuba 48.9%.
- In South Asia, Nepal ranked 48 with 29.6% of the lower house seats held by women; Pakistan ranked 89 with 20.6% (but with no Ministers); Bangladesh was 91st with 20.3%, and Sri Lanka lagged at 179th place with 5.8%.
- Bulgaria, France and Nicaragua tied for the first rank for the number of women ministers with 52.9% each.
About UN Women: The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women:
UN Women is the UN entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. UN Women was established to accelerate progress on meeting their needs worldwide.
In July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly created UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. In doing so, UN Member States took an historic step in accelerating the Organization’s goals on gender equality and the empowerment of women. The creation of UN Women came about as part of the UN reform agenda, bringing together resources and mandates for greater impact.
It merges and builds on the important work of four previously distinct parts of the UN system, which focused exclusively on gender equality and women’s empowerment:
- Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW).
- International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW).
- Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women (OSAGI).
- United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
First “Pristine air-quality monitoring station at Palampur”
National Physical Laboratory (NPL) has established an atmospheric monitoring station in the campus of Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (IHBT) at Palampur (H.P.) at an altitude of 1391 m for generating the base data for atmospheric trace species & properties to serve as reference for comparison of polluted atmosphere in India.
- The station houses calibrated state-of-the-art-equipment for the continuous measurements of ambient and greenhouse gases (CO, NO, NO2, NH3, SO2, O3, PM1, PM2.5, PM10, hydrocarbons, black-carbon, CO2 & CH4), and weather parameters.
- Because of Palampur’s pristine air, and the capability of the new monitoring station for detection of small amounts of pollutants, the impact of faraway pollution sources can be measured precisely.
- In addition, this new station has the experimental facilities to investigate the aerosol/cloud interactions, and such investigations would be helpful in generating a better understanding of the Earth’s climate system.
- The data generated by pristine station at Palampur will act as background data for the measured pollution at various cities in the country. The generated background data will be shared with different pollution control boards and agencies in the country so that the more precise pollution mapping traceable to standard values can be done, which in turn, would assist policy decisions for the abatement of air pollutants.
- In India, air quality parameters are mostly measured in industrial and residential areas, however, data for air quality of pristine atmosphere is not available in India. NPL’s station will contribute to fill this important gap. The NPL’s station will also serve as a base station for inter-comparison of air quality monitoring equipment being used in India to improve quality of monitored data in India.