Table of Contents:
GS Paper 2:
GS Paper 3:
Facts for Prelims:
2. Operation Shield to fight Covid-19.
3. Neighbouring rights law.
GS Paper : 2
Topics covered: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
What to study?
For prelims: key features of the act.
For mains: performance and efficacy of the act and what else needs to be done?
Context: MoHFW has clarified that it has not suspended the PC&PNDT Act, which prohibits sex selection before or after conception.
What’s the issue?
- In view of the ongoing lockdown, due of COVID19 pandemic, the Health Ministry has issued a Notification dated April 4, 2020 to defer/suspend certain provisions under the PC&PNDT Rules 1996.
- These Rules pertain to applying for renewal of registration if falling due in this period, submission of reports by diagnostics centres by 5th day of the following month and submission of quarterly progress report (QPR) by the States/UTs.
But, a section of the media is speculating that the PC&PNDT (Pre Conception and Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection)) Act 1994 has been suspended by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
About PCPNDT Act:
The Pre-conception & Pre-natal Diagnostics Techniques (PC & PNDT) Act, 1994 was enacted in response to the decline in Sex ratio in India, which deteriorated from 972 in 1901 to 927 in 1991.
The main purpose of enacting the act is to ban the use of sex selection techniques before or after conception and prevent the misuse of prenatal diagnostic technique for sex selective abortion.
Offences under this act include conducting or helping in the conduct of prenatal diagnostic technique in the unregistered units, sex selection on a man or woman, conducting PND test for any purpose other than the one mentioned in the act, sale, distribution, supply, renting etc. of any ultra sound machine or any other equipment capable of detecting sex of the foetus.
- The act was amended in 2003 to improve the regulation of the technology used in sex selection.
- The Act was amended to bring the technique of pre conception sex selection and ultrasound technique within the ambit of the act.
- The amendment also empowered the central supervisory board and state level supervisory board was constituted.
Main provisions in the act are:
- The Act provides for the prohibition of sex selection, before or after conception.
- It regulates the use of pre-natal diagnostic techniques, like ultrasound and amniocentesis by allowing them their use only to detect few cases.
- No laboratory or centre or clinic will conduct any test including ultrasonography for the purpose of determining the sex of the foetus.
- No person, including the one who is conducting the procedure as per the law, will communicate the sex of the foetus to the pregnant woman or her relatives by words, signs or any other method.
- Any person who puts an advertisement for pre-natal and pre-conception sex determination facilities in the form of a notice, circular, label, wrapper or any document, or advertises through interior or other media in electronic or print form or engages in any visible representation made by means of hoarding, wall painting, signal, light, sound, smoke or gas, can be imprisoned for up to three years and fined Rs. 10,000.
- The Act mandates compulsory registration of all diagnostic laboratories, all genetic counselling centres, genetic laboratories, genetic clinics and ultrasound clinics.
- What is banned under PCPNDT Act.
- What changes were introduced through the 2003 Amendments.
- Implementation of the act.
Discuss the features and significance of PC&PNDT Act.
Topics Covered: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources, issues relating to poverty and hunger.
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Overview, need for and significance of the containment plan.
Context: India has prepared a “containment” plan, essentially an updated version of an earlier Health Ministry blueprint that was drawn up when the only COVID-19 cases were those coming from abroad.
What are the components of the containment plan?
The plan outlines a strategic approach based on the stage of transmission.
Five stages have been identified — travel-related case reported in India; local transmission; large outbreaks amenable to containment; widespread community transmission; India becoming endemic for COVID-19.
The plan is subject to revisions if required, as and when there is greater clarity about some of these aspects.
What is the approach recommended for the various stages?
Containment of local transmission:
- Extensive contact tracing and search for cases in the containment zone.
- Testing all suspect cases and high-risk contacts.
- Isolating all suspect or confirmed cases.
- Quarantining contacts and social distancing.
For larger outbreaks, in addition to the usual measures:
There is higher focus on a particular geographic zone and hospitals around the area are prepared for a rise in cases. In addition, all asymptomatic healthcare workers are to be given hydroxychloroquine as a preventive.
How are confirmed and suspected cases to be dealt with?
- All suspect/confirmed COVID-19 cases will be hospitalized and kept in isolation in dedicated COVID-19 hospitals/hospital blocks.
- Persons testing positive for COVID-19 will remain hospitalized till such time as two of their samples are tested negative as per discharge policy.
- To reduce the burden on hospitals, there is a plan to temporarily convert hotels/ hostels/ guesthouses/ stadiums near a COVID-19 hospital as care centres where mild cases may be kept.
- Dedicated COVID-19 hospitals/dedicated blocks in large hospitals will be identified and operationalized.
- Moderate to severe cases, who require monitoring of their clinical status (patients with radiological evidence of pneumonia) will be admitted to COVID hospital. For more severe cases requiring respiratory or other support, tertiary care centres both private and government will be included as part of the micro plan.
The plan has differential approach to different regions of the country, while mounting a strong containment effort in hot spots.
The Health Ministry has issued directions for categorisation of designated facilities into three groups — COVID care centres, COVID health centres and dedicated COVID hospitals.
- The care centres will be for cases clinically assigned as mild or very mild, or suspected cases.
- The health centres are hospitals that will offer care for all cases that have been clinically assigned as moderate.
- The dedicated hospitals will offer comprehensive care, primarily for those clinically assigned as severe.
Protection of healthcare personnel:
The plan reiterates the need for adequate PPE.
- At all times doctors, nurses and para-medics working in the clinical areas will wear three-layered surgical mask and gloves.
- The medical personnel working in isolation and critical care facilities where aerozolisation is anticipated, will wear full complement of PPE (including N95 masks).
- The support staff engaged in cleaning and disinfection will also wear full complement of PPE.
- Environmental cleaning should be done twice daily and consist of damp dusting and floor mopping with Lysol or other phenolic disinfectants and cleaning of commonly touched surfaces with sodium hypochlorite solution.
- Sodium hypochlorite is already being used extensively, including in the Nizamuddin headquarters of the Tablighi Jamaat.
Sources: Indian Express.
Topics Covered: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
What to study?
For Prelims: Key provisions and IPC sections applicable, overview of epidemics act.
For Mains: Need for and significance of this ordinance, challenges ahead.
Context: The Odisha government has promulgated an ordinance to deal with COVID 19 spread by amending Section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897.
Overview of the Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020:
- Anyone who disobeys any regulation or order made under the Act, is liable for imprisonment up to two years or with a fine of up to Rs 10,000 or with both.
- All offences under the Act shall be cognisable and bailable.
- Any person disobeying any regulation or order made under the 1897 Act was deemed to have committed an offence punishable under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), under Section 3 of the Act.
- A provision has also been also made in the Ordinance for special procurement of critical drugs and consumables to manage the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.
Odisha’s department of health and family welfare has also framed regulations which have two provisions:
- Not wearing a mask in public place shall be considered as an offence.
- The penalty for the first three instances has been kept at Rs 200 while for offences beyond that, the penalty shall be Rs 500 for each offence in the state.
What is Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897?
It is routinely enforced across the country for dealing with outbreaks of diseases such as swine flu, dengue, and cholera. It was introduced by colonial government to tackle the epidemic of bubonic plague that had spread in the erstwhile Bombay Presidency in the 1890s.
Why was this act criticised?
Historians have criticised the Act for its potential for abuse. Using powers conferred by the Act, colonies authorities would search suspected plague cases in homes and among passengers, with forcible segregations, evacuations, and demolitions of infected places. In 1897, the year the law was enforced, freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak was punished with 18 months’ rigorous imprisonment after his newspapers Kesari and Mahratta admonished imperial authorities for their handling of the plague epidemic.
Provisions of the 1897 Epidemic Diseases Act:
- It empowers state governments/UTs to take special measures and formulate regulations for containing the outbreak.
- It also empowers state to prescribe such temporary regulations to be observed by the public or by any person or class of persons as it shall deem necessary to prevent the outbreak of such disease or the spread thereof.
- The state may determine in what manner and by whom any expenses incurred (including compensation if any) shall be defrayed.
- The State Government may take measures and prescribe regulations for the inspection of persons travelling by railway or otherwise, and the segregation, in hospital, temporary accommodation or otherwise, of persons suspected by the inspecting officer of being infected with any such disease.
- It also provides penalties for disobeying any regulation or order made under the Act. These are according to section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant).
- It also gives legal protection to the implementing officers acting under the Act.
Examples of implementation:
- In 2018, the district collector of Gujarat’s Vadodara issued a notification under the Act declaring the Khedkarmsiya village in Waghodia taluka as cholera-affected after 31 persons complained of symptoms of the disease.
- In 2015, to deal with malaria and dengue in Chandigarh, the Act was implemented and controlling officers were instructed to ensure the issuance of notices and challans of Rs 500 to offenders.
- In 2009, to tackle the swine flu outbreak in Pune, Section 2 powers were used to open screening centres in civic hospitals across the city, and swine flu was declared a notifiable disease.
- Previous examples of implementation of this Act, diseases for which it was declared.
- A notifiable disease.
- Implementing agency, penalty, protection and inspection of people under the act.
- Handling of the plague epidemic by British, criticisms by Tilak through his papers.
Discuss the key provisions of the 1897 Epidemic Diseases Act.
Sources: Economic Times.
Topics Covered: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
What to study?
For Prelims: Key findings, challenges and concerns highlighted.
For Mains: Measures to address these concerns and challenges.
Context: WHO, along with the International Council of Nurses (ICN) and the Nursing Now campaign, has released a report titled, “State of the World’s Nursing”.
Key findings and observations- Areas of concern:
- Globally, there are roughly 36.9 nurses per 10,000 people, with variations within and across regions.
- There are almost 10 times more nurses in the Americas than in the African region. While there are 83.4 nurses per 10,000 population in the former, there are 8.7 nurses per 10,000 population in the latter.
- By 2030, there will be a shortage of over 5.7 million nurses worldwide.
- The largest shortfall in absolute numbers is in the South-East Asian region, while in the Americas and Europe, the problem is different since they are facing an ageing nursing workforce.
- Moreover, a number of high-income countries in Europe, the Eastern Mediterranean and American regions are “exclusively” dependent on migrant nurses.
- As nurses and other medical workers are at the frontlines of this global pandemic, some of the key issues they face include shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) including face masks, eye-protective gear and gloves, and also the psychological stress faced by some medical staff.
What needs to be done?
Governments should invest in nursing education, jobs and leadership. Some of these measures include remunerating nurses according to the prevalent local, national and international labour market conditions.
Need for recognition of their works:
The report highlights that work nurses do is critical in fulfilling national and global targets related to universal health care, mental health, noncommunicable diseases, emergency preparedness and response, among others such goals.
- Within the healthcare sector, nurses play a critical role. They comprise the largest component of health professionals, at over 59 per cent — or 27.9 million in absolute numbers — underling that their role, especially during the current health crisis, is paramount.
- Overall, nurses are important in ensuring the quality of care delivered to a patient, preventing and controlling infections and combating antimicrobial resistance.
State of Nursing in India:
- As of 2018, there were over 1.56 million nurses in India and 772,575 nursing associates. Out of this, the share of professional nurses is 67 per cent, with 322,827 graduating every year with a minimum training period of four years.
- Within the health workforce, nurses comprise 47 per cent of the medical staff, followed by doctors (23.3 per cent), dentists (5.5 per cent) and pharmacists (24.1 per cent).
- Further, an overwhelming majority of the nurses are women — 88 per cent in India. This is in line with the composition of nursing seen globally as well, where 90 per cent are women.
Sources: Indian Express.
GS Paper : 3
Topics Covered: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
What to study?
For Prelims: Uranium and contamination, affected states.
For Mains: Effects, concerns and ways to prevent.
Context: A new study conducted by the University of Manchester, UK and Mahavir Cancer Institute and Research Centre, Phulwarisharif in Patna has found uranium contaminating the groundwater in 10 districts of Bihar.
- Supaul, Gopalganj, Siwan, Saran, Patna, Nalanda, Nawada, Aurangabad, Gaya and Jehanabad are the 10 districts.
- Uranium concentrations are elevated mostly in the North West-South East band along and to the east of Gandak river and running south of the Ganga river.
- The maximum uranium content was in Supaul, 80 microgram of uranium per litre of water.
What is the acceptable limit?
The Indian Standard IS 10500: 2012 for Drinking Water specification has specified the maximum acceptable limits for radioactive residues as alpha and beta emitters, values in excess of which render the water not suitable.
These requirements take into account all radioactive elements including uranium. No individual radioactive elements have been specifically identified.
As per Bureau of Indian Standard (BIS), maximum permissible limit of Uranium is 0.03 mg/l (as per WHO provisional guidelines) in all drinking water standards after following due process.
A report brought out by Duke University, USA in association with Central Ground Water Board and State Ground Water departments states that Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Jammu & Kashmir have localised occurrence of Uranium concentration.
Main factors responsible for uranium contamination:
- Amount of uranium contained in an aquifer’s rocks.
- Water-rock interactions that cause the uranium to be extracted from those rocks.
- Oxidation conditions that enhance the extracted uranium’s solubility in water.
- The interaction of the extracted uranium with other chemicals in the groundwater, such as bicarbonate, which can further enhance its solubility.
- Human factors such as groundwater-table decline and nitrate pollution may be exacerbating the problem.
What needs to be done?
- Revision of the current water quality monitoring program in India.
- Evaluation of human health risks in areas of high uranium prevalence.
- Development of adequate remediation technologies.
- Implementation of preventive management practices to address this problem.
- Including a uranium standard in the Bureau of Indian Standards’ Drinking Water Specification based on uranium’s kidney-harming effects.
- Establishing monitoring systems to identify at-risk areas, and exploring new ways to prevent or treat uranium contamination.
What is Uranium?
- Uranium is weakly radioactive and remains so because of its long physical half-life (4.468 billion years for uranium-238).
- The biological half-life (the average time it takes for the human body to eliminate half the amount in the body) for uranium is about 15 days.
- It is a naturally occurring element found in low levels within all rock, soil, and water.
- This is the highest-numbered element to be found naturally in significant quantities on earth.
- It is considered to be more plentiful than antimony, beryllium, cadmium, gold, mercury, silver, or tungsten.
- It is about as abundant as tin, arsenic or molybdenum.
- Radioactive vs non radioactive elements.
- What is half life of an element? How is it measures?
- Abundance of various elements in earth’s crust.
- How uranium contaminates ground water?
- Uranium limits- BIS vs WHO.
A recent report has highlighted uranium contamination in India’s groundwater. Discuss the causes, its effects and ways to address the issue?
Sources: down to earth.
Topics Covered: Indian economy related issues.
What to study?
For Prelims: Features of LTRO.
For Mains: Its significance and applicability.
Context: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has said it has received Rs 1.13 lakh crore worth of bids in the targeted long term repo operation (TLTRO) conducted for an amount of Rs 25,000 crore with a three-year tenor.
The RBI received 18 bids in the auction. The total bids that were received amounted to Rs 1.13 lakh crore, implying a bid to cover ratio — the amount of bids received relative to the notified amount — of 4.5.
What is LTRO?
The LTRO is a tool under which the central bank provides one-year to three-year money to banks at the prevailing repo rate, accepting government securities with matching or higher tenure as the collateral.
How is it different from LAF and MSF?
While the RBI’s current windows of liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) and marginal standing facility (MSF) offer banks money for their immediate needs ranging from 1-28 days, the LTRO supplies them with liquidity for their 1- to 3-year needs. LTRO operations are intended to prevent short-term interest rates in the market from drifting a long way away from the policy rate, which is the repo rate.
Why is it important?
- As banks get long-term funds at lower rates, their cost of funds falls.
- In turn, they reduce interest rates for borrowers.
- LTRO helped RBI ensure that banks reduce their marginal cost of funds-based lending rate, without reducing policy rates.
- LTRO also showed the market that RBI will not only rely on revising repo rates and conducting open market operations for its monetary policy, but also use new tools to achieve its intended objectives.
Sources: Times Of India.
Topics Covered: Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate.
What to study?
For Prelims: Role of armed forces in such situations, procedure to call them and provisions in this regard.
For Mains: Need for and significance of their support.
Context: Army has moved in to take over the COVID-19 quarantine facility at Narela in Delhi. This has brought into focus the role of army in such situations, procedure to be followed and provisions in this regard.
What Armed Forces have done so far?
- 6 quarantine facilities in Mumbai, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Hindon, Manesar and Chennai. 15 other facilities on standby, capacity of approximately 7,000.
- 51 armed forces hospitals are preparing dedicated COVID-19 facilities including High Dependency Units (scaled-down version of an Intensive Care Unit), and ICU beds.
- 5 testing labs at armed forces hospitals made part of national grid.
- Six more hospitals to be equipped with the resources to begin COVID-19 testing.
- Special IAF flights have evacuated people and carried medical supplies.
- 60 tonnes of stores airlifted by IAF transport fleet has airlifted approximately to various parts of the country. Twenty-eight fixed wing and 21 helicopters are on standby.
- 6 Naval ships kept ready for assistance to neighbouring countries. Five medical teams also on standby for deployment in Maldives, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Afghanistan.
So, what is the procedure for calling the armed forces to help the civil administration?
The procedure for requisitioning armed forces is governed under ‘Aid to Civil Authorities’ under the guidelines laid in Instructions on Aid to the Civil Authorities by the Armed Forces, 1970, Regulations for the Army and Manual of Indian Military Law.
- Civil administration requests the Local Military Authority for assistance, for the maintenance of law and order, maintenance of essential services, disaster relief and other types of assistance.
- Armed forces can be asked to provide troops and equipment for a flag march, rescue and relief, evacuation, and immediate aid.
- Providing aid to civil authorities, as and when called upon to do so, is a secondary task for the armed forces. It cannot replace the primary role of ensuring external security and operational preparedness.
- The National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC), headed by the cabinet secretary, is the final authority to decide on the number of armed forces personnel that can be deployed to aid civil authority.
What are the tasks expected to be performed in checking the spread of COVID-19?
- Maintenance of law and order.
- Crowd control and curfew in sensitive areas.
- Evacuation of civilians from affected areas.
- Provision of essential supply of electricity and water.
- Restoration of essential services.
- Emergency feeding and shelter.
- Prevention of panic, prevention of theft and loot.
- Guarding quarantine locations and detention centres.
- Surveillance through drones aerial platforms.
Who pays for the costs incurred by the armed forces in these roles?
The civil administration. The cost of assistance provided by the Armed Forces is recovered in accordance with the instructions contained in Appendix ‘H’ to the Pamphlet ‘Instructions on Aid to Civil Authorities by the Armed Forces 1970’.
- Composition of NCMC.
- Who can request armed forces aid?
- Who will decide the number of armed forces personnel that can be deployed to aid civil authority?
- Difference between primary and secondary task of armed forces.
Discuss when the armed forces can provide aid to the civil authorities . What are the provisions governing?
Sources: Indian Express.
Facts for Prelims
Context: The COVID 19 pandemic has made the ubiquitous gamosa, a decorative cotton towel, evolve from memento to mask.
What is Gamosa?
The Gamosa is an article of significance for the people of Assam. It is generally a white rectangular piece of cloth with primarily a red border on three sides and red woven motifs on the fourth.
- Assam has traditionally had two types of gamosas — the ukaor plain kind used to wipe sweat or dry the body after a bath, and the phulam, which is decorated with floral motifs to be gifted as a memento or during festivals such as Bihu.
- The gamosa’s graph as a symbol of protest rose during the anti-foreigners Assam Agitation from 1979 to 1985. The extremist United Liberation Front of Asom too used the towel with “revolutionary” motifs.
Operation Shield to fight Covid-19:
Announced by Delhi Government.
- SHIELD stands for sealing, home quarantine, isolation and tracing, essential supply, local sanitation and door-to-door checks.
- It will be implemented in 21 localities identified as containment zones in Delhi.
Neighbouring rights law:
- It is mentioned in Europe’s new digital copyright law.
- It is designed to ensure news publishers are compensated when their work is shown on websites, search engines and social media platforms.
Why in News?
France’s competition regulator recently said that Google must start paying media groups for displaying their content, ordering it to begin negotiations after refusing for months to comply with Europe’s new digital copyright law.
What has the Google said?
- Google, which effectively has a lock on internet searches in Europe, refused to comply, saying that articles, pictures and videos would be shown in search results only if media groups consent to let the tech giant use them at no cost.
- If they refuse, only a headline and a bare link to the content will appear, Google said, almost certainly resulting in a loss of visibility and potential ad revenue for the publisher.
Insights Current Affairs Analysis (I–CAN) by IAS Topper