IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains Focus)- 17th February 2018
Decline in sex ratio at birth in 17 states
Part of: Mains GS Paper I- Social issues
- The sex ratio at birth (SRB) saw a decline in 17 out of 21 large states of the country, with Gujarat recording an alarming dip of 53 points, the ‘Healthy States, Progressive India’ report released by the Niti Aayog stated.
- According to the report, among the 17 states which recorded substantial drop of 10 points or more, are Gujarat, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Karnataka.
- According to the report, improvement in SRB was witnessed in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
- The sex ratio at birth is an important indicator and reflects the extent to which there is a reduction in the number of girl children born by sex-selective abortions.
- There is a clear need for states to effectively implement the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994 and take appropriate measures to promote the value of the girl child.
- There is a need to check sex-selective abortion.
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Decline in forest cover in Western Ghats
Part of: Mains GS Paper III- Environment, Conservation
- The Nilgiris district in Tamil Nadu, Kerala’s Idukki and Waynad districts, and the Dang district in Gujarat are the Western Ghats’ core revenue-generating districts today.
- These districts had a forest cover of more than 72 per cent of their total geographical area 12 years ago.
- A comparative study – the India State of Forest Report (ISFR) – a biennial publication of the Forest Survey of India (FSI), for 2005, 2015 and 2017, shows a significant decline in the forest cover in the last 12 years.
- The Nilgiris saw a decline of around 35,000 hectares of forest cover between 2005 and 2017.
- The decline in the forest cover is mainly due to the commercial activities such as resort construction and home stays in the Western Ghats.
- Illegal felling of trees by the timber lobby.
- Development projects in the Western Ghats region, such as Yettinaholey river diversion project, are leading to the erosion of forest wealth.
The Western Ghats region:
- The region, which ranges from Gujarat to Tamil Nadu, is a well-known biodiversity hot spot in the world.
- According to ISFR, the region is spread over 35 revenue districts in the country.
- Out of them, 30 districts share their physiographic zones with west coast, east coast, north deccan and south deccan in different States.
- The forest cover in the 35 districts range from 4 per cent to 77 per cent of their geographical area.
Article link: Click here
TOPIC: General Studies 2:
- India and its neighbourhood- relations.
- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
- Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests
India joins Ashgabat agreement: Significance
India recently joined the Ashgabat Agreement, which was instituted in 2011 to establish an international multimodal transport and transit corridor between Central Asia and the Persian Gulf.
The Ashgabat agreement:
The Agreement was first signed by Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Oman and Qatar in 2011. While Qatar subsequently withdrew from the agreement in 2013, Kazakhstan and Pakistan joined the grouping in 2016.
The Ashgabat Agreement came into force in April 2016.
Its objective is to enhance connectivity within the Eurasian region and synchronize it with other regional transport corridors, including the International North–South Transport Corridor (INSTC).
Benefits of joining the Ashgabat agreement:
- Facilitating trade with Eurasian region:
Accession to the Ashgabat Agreement will enable India to utilise the existing transport and transit corridor to facilitate trade and commercial interactions with the Eurasian region.
It will synchronise with India’s efforts to implement the INSTC for enhanced connectivity.
- Operationalisation of INSTC:
The Iran-Turkmenistan-Kazakhstan (ITK) railway line will be the major route under the Ashgabat Agreement. It has also been included as part of the INSTC. Therefore, the Ashgabat Agreement and INSTC will be easily synchronized.
Thus, with Ashgabat agreement the operationalisation of the INSTC is inching closer to becoming a reality.
A 7200 km long multi-mode network encompassing ship, rail and road routes connecting India with Russia, Central Asia and Europe via Iran.
The route primarily involves moving freight from India, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia via ship, rail and road. The objective of the corridor is to increase trade connectivity between major cities such as Mumbai, Moscow, Tehran etc.
- Improved scope of Chabahar port:
With the recent commissioning of the Shahid Beheshti terminal at Chabahar port and India’s joining of the Ashgabat Agreement, a greater prospect now opens up for enlarging both the operational and practical scope of Chabahar to become a vital gateway and the shortest land route to Central Asia.
The operation of a multi-purpose terminal at Chabahar including India’s plan to build a 610 km north-south railway from Chabahar to Zahedan couldn’t have been realised unless India joined a Central Asian-led transport mechanism.
- Procuring resources from Central Asia:
Joining the Ashgabat Agreement would make it easier for India to reach out to Central Asia which houses strategic and high-value minerals including uranium, copper, titanium, ferroalloys, yellow phosphorus, iron ore, rolled metal, propane, butane, zinc, coking coal, etc.
Kazakhstan alone wants to increase its non-oil exports by 50 per cent by 2025. And, without direct transport access, India cannot procure the Central Asian riches needed for its manufacturing economy.
- Enhancing commercial ties:
India’s current trade with Central Asia is minimal at a little over $1 billion and is not growing much. India’s share in Central Asia’s total trade is only about one per cent.
Only by improving transport connectivity can the prospect of commercial ties with the region be enhanced.
What more needs to be done?
- India must enlarge the strategic role of Chabahar port for evolving an integrated transportation network involving both the INSTC and the proposed transit corridor to Central Asia.
- India’s connectivity approach need not be limited to increasing trade and commerce but should aim to enhance investment and services, interlinking sources of raw material, centres of productions and markets between India and Eurasia.
For example, a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between India and Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) could spur the unhindered flow of raw materials as well as inflow of capital and technology through new industrial infrastructure along Chabahar and INSTC routes.
Overall, India’s participation in Eurasian connectivity projects through the Ashgabat Agreement will serve to address the integration process in more viable ways.
Connecting the dots:
- India recently joined the Ashgabat Agreement. Discuss its significance for India.
TOPIC:General Studies 2:
- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health
- Development processes and the development industry the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders
For millennia, India suffered greatly from smallpox. In 1977, the country declared elimination of smallpox. Similarly, India was burdened by polio. In 2014, India declared polio eliminated. These are stunning achievements from which all Indians benefit immensely. Now is the time to take on malaria.
At the East Asia Summit in 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi committed India to eliminating malaria by 2030, and last year, India launched its national strategic plan for malaria elimination.
National strategic plan for malaria elimination:
Launched in 2017 the plan gives year wise elimination targets in various parts of the country depending upon the endemicity of malaria until 2022.
The strategies involve strengthening malaria surveillance, establishing a mechanism for early detection and prevention of outbreaks of malaria, promoting the prevention of malaria by the use of Long Lasting Impregnated Nets (LLINs), effective indoor residual spray and augmenting the manpower and capacities for effective implementation.
India faces daunting challenges in the fight against malaria.
- Recent reports cited that in 2017, there was an 18 per cent increase in malaria cases in Tamil Nadu — a State that has otherwise been a leader in fighting the disease.
These malaria upsurges could jeopardise the successful elimination that neighbouring Sri Lanka has sustained, particularly given the frequent travel between south India and the island nation.
- The true numbers of malaria cases and deaths are not known.
Estimates range from 1 million to 18 million cases and from 400 to 48,000 deaths per year.
- Malaria exists in all States in India, and 95 per cent of Indians are at risk.
The scale and distribution of this devastating disease is not well documented.
Problems related to malaria treatment by private sector:
A related problem is that the majority of malaria in India is diagnosed and treated (or commonly misdiagnosed and mistreated) in the private sector. In 2015, 86 million malaria treatments were procured in the private sector, compared to just 2 million in the public sector.
- Private doctors and clinics have no obligation to follow government guidelines, use recommended drugs, or report malaria cases to State authorities. Malaria treatment by the private sector is especially problematic.
- In the private sector, all types of drugs are used, including those that are either worthless or harmful.
For example, each year, the private sector procures nearly 10 million injections of artemisinin monotherapy — a treatment that is strongly discouraged in India and elsewhere because it accelerates the development of deadly drug resistance.
The misuse of malaria drugs in India is an irony, given that India is by far the largest supplier of high-quality approved malaria drugs to the rest of the world.
What needs to be done?
- India must declare a campaign and a determination to get the job done.
National initiatives must promote innovative strategies, incentivise the appropriate use of diagnostics, drugs and insecticides, and ensure that all malaria cases are reported.
- The most affected States must aggressively bring their malaria down using effective vector-control and case management practices, combined with robust surveillance systems.
- The fight against malaria will require partnership between communities, civil society, private sector, and public health agencies.
- Intersectoral coordination is the key. Health ministry needs to work together with the other Ministries and Municipal Corporations to achieve the desired results.
- States must step in:
States will have to tailor their programmes to achieve elimination, especially in tribal areas where the burden of malaria is often the highest.
A single approach to malaria elimination will not work in any large country, especially in India where the biology, entomology and epidemiology of the disease vary considerably.
India has been central to the fight against malaria since the beginning of the battle. The breakthrough discovery that malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes was made 120 years ago in Secundrabad, India. Since then, half of the world’s countries have banished malaria.
Now is the time for India to do the same.
Connecting the dots:
- While India has successfully eliminated small pox and polio over time. It is time coordinated efforts are put in to eliminate malaria. Discuss the challenges associated with the same. Also, suggest measures to address these challenges.
Science should have the last word
Not a prescription for the poor
Lessons from a fraud