(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)
Part of: Prelims and GS II – Health
Context The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended the widespread rollout of the first malaria vaccine.
- This could save tens of thousands of children’s lives each year across Africa.
- After a successful pilot programme in three African countries the RTS,S vaccine will be made available more widely.
- The RTS,S vaccine, also known as Mosquirix, was developed by the British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), and has been administered to more than 800,000 children in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi since the pilot programme began in 2019.
- A study has also found that when young children were given both the RTS,S and antimalarial drugs there was a 70% reduction in hospitalisation or death.
- Malaria is a life threatening mosquito borne blood disease caused by plasmodium parasites.
- It is predominantly found in the tropical and subtropical areas of Africa, South America as well as Asia.
- The parasites spread through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.
- There are 5 parasite species that cause malaria in humans. 2 of these species – Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax – pose the greatest threat.
- Symptoms: Fever and flu-like illness, including shaking chills, headache, muscle aches, and tiredness.
- It is preventable as well as curable.
- This disease causes hundreds of millions of infections each year, risking lives and livelihoods, trapping people in poverty.
Status of India
- India is the only high endemic country which has reported a decline of 17.6% in 2019 as compared to 2018.
- India’s National Strategic Plan for Malaria Elimination shifted focus from Malaria control to elimination and provided a roadmap to end malaria in 571 districts out of India’s 678 districts by 2022.
- Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has recently established ‘Malaria Elimination Research Alliance-India (MERA-India) which is a conglomeration of partners working on malaria control.
Part of: Prelims and GS III – Pollution
Context According to an analysis by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), Uttar Pradesh is the largest emitter of PM2.5, the class of particulate matter considered most harmful to health.
- The high emissions from U.P. were largely due to a significant share of PM2.5 emissions from solid-fuel use in households and, by virtue of being India’s most populous State, it had a higher proportion of households relying on this form of fuel.
- Other top polluters: Maharashtra, Gujarat, Odisha, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, and Rajasthan
- Common pollutants that were analysed: PM2.5, PM10, NOx (nitrous oxides), SO2 (sulphur dioxide), CO (carbon monoxide), NH3 (ammonia), and NMVOC (non-methane volatile organic compounds).
Indian Government’s initiatives
- The Government of India has launched the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) in 2008 outlining eight National Missions on climate change. These include:
- National Solar Mission: To establish India as a global leader in solar energy by creating the policy conditions for its deployment across the country
- National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency: To promote the market for energy efficiency by fostering innovative policies and effective market instruments.
- National Mission on Sustainable Habitat: To promote understanding of climate change, its adaptation and mitigation, energy efficiency and natural resource conservation.
- National Water Mission: Conservation of water, minimizing wastage and ensuring its more equitable distribution
- National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem: To develop a sustainable National capacity to continuously assess the health status of the Himalayan Ecosystem
- National Mission for a Green India: Protecting; restoring and enhancing India’s diminishing forest cover
- National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture: Enhancing agricultural productivity especially in rainfed areas focusing on integrated farming, water use efficiency, soil health management and synergizing resource conservation
- National Mission on Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change: To build a vibrant and dynamic knowledge system that would inform and support national action for responding effectively to the objective of ecologically
Part of: Prelims and GS – III – Food processing and related industries in India
Context Arunachal Pradesh has finalised the National Mission on Edible Oils-Oil Palm (NMEO-OP) implementing it across 1.33 lakh hectares soon.
- Besides, Integrated oil palm development firm 3F Oil Palm plans to invest Rs. 1,750 crore in oil palm cultivation in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
- Oil palm area under cultivation in the two States would increase in the next five years by about 31 times to 62,000 hectares and employment opportunities would be created.
What are the key features of the NMEO-OP Scheme?
- Objective: To ensure self-sufficiency in edible oil production.
- Aim: To reduce import dependence from 60% to 45% by 2024-25, by increasing domestic edible oil production from 10.5 million tonnes to 18 million tonnes which is a 70% growth target.
- Farmers will get all needed facilities, from quality seeds to technology.
- Along with promoting the cultivation of oil palm, this mission will also expand the cultivation of our other traditional oilseed crops.
What is the need for such schemes?
- India is the largest consumer of vegetable oil in the world.
- India’s Palm oil imports are almost 60% of its total vegetable oil imports.
- Recently, India’s dependence on expensive imports has driven retail oil prices to new highs.
- In India, 94.1% of its palm oil is used in food products, especially for cooking. Thus, palm oil is extremely important to India’s edible oils economy.
- Top consumers: India, China, and the European Union (EU).
Do you know?
- The NMEO-OP’s predecessor was the National Mission on Oil Seeds and Oil Palm.
Part of: Prelims and GS III – Conservation and Pollution related issues
Context Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN) has released a report on the status of coral reefs across the world.
- The report, the first of its kind in 13 years, underlined the catastrophic consequences of global warming but said that some coral reefs can be saved by arresting greenhouse gases.
Highlights of the report
- In the last decade, the world lost about 14 percent of its coral reefs.
- Threats: Ocean-acidification, warmer sea temperatures and local stressors such as overfishing, pollution, unsustainable tourism and poor coastal management.
- Impact of global warming: Coral reefs across the world are under relentless stress from warming caused by climate change. Coral bleaching events caused by rise in elevated sea surface temperatures (SST) were responsible for coral loss.
- Loss of hard coral cover: There has been a steady decrease in hard coral cover in the last four decades since 1978 when the world lost nine per cent of its corals. The decrease is disconcerting because live hard coral cover is an indicator of coral reef health.
- Algal bloom: Algal bloom on coral ridges are a sign of stress on the structures. Since 2010, the amount of algae on the world’s coral reefs has increased by about 20 per cent.
Why should we conserve corals?
- Corals occupy less than one per cent of the ocean floor but over one billion people benefit directly from the reefs.
- The value of goods and services provided by coral reefs is estimated to be $2.7 trillion per year. This includes $36 billion in coral reef tourism.
- The net economic value of the world’s coral reefs could be nearly tens of billions of dollars per year.
What is bleaching?
- Bleaching occurs when healthy corals become stressed by changes in ocean temperatures, causing them to expel algae living in their tissues which drains them of their vibrant colours.
- Bleaching was first seen on the reef in 1998 — at the time, the hottest year on record — but as temperature records continue to tumble its frequency has increased, giving coral less time to recover.
Part of: Prelims and GS III – Sci and tech
Context Germany’s Benjamin List and U.S.-based David MacMillan won the Nobel Chemistry Prize for developing a tool to build molecules which has helped make chemistry more environmentally friendly.
- Their tool, which they developed independently of each other in 2000, can be used to control and accelerate chemical reactions, exerting a big impact on drug research.
- Prior to their work, scientists believed there were only two types of catalysts — metals and enzymes.
- Catalysts are substances that control and accelerate chemical reactions, without becoming part of the final product.
- The new technique relies on small organic molecules and is called “asymmetric organocatalysis”.
- It is widely used in pharmaceuticals, allowing drug makers to streamline the production of medicines for depression and respiratory infections, among others.
- Organocatalysts allow several steps in a production process to be performed in an unbroken sequence, considerably reducing waste in chemical manufacturing.
Part of: Prelims and GS III – Sci and Tech
Context The Telangana government recently launched the drone-based afforestation project named ‘Hara Bhara’.
About the campaign
- India’s first aerial seeding campaign by a Seedcopter drone at the KBR Park in Hyderabad was launched by Actor Rana Daggubati, who is the brand ambassador of the project.
- Aerial seeding is a technique of plantation wherein seed balls — seeds covered with a mixture of clay, compost, char and other components, are sprayed on the ground using aerial devices, including planes, helicopters or drones.
- These pellets will then sprout when there is enough rain, with the nutrients present within them helping in the initial growth.
- The state Department of Information technology, and Department of Forest have partnered with Marut Drones, a Hyderabad-based drone technology startup, for the first-of-its-kind project in India.
- This project uses drones to disperse seed balls prepared by the local women and welfare communities, over thin, barren and empty forest lands to turn them into lush green abodes of trees.
- Under rapid reforestation by drones, 50 lakh trees will be planted in about 12,000 hectares of land in forests across all the 33 districts in the state.
- The campaign is expected to accelerate the mission of Green Telangana under the ‘Haritha Haram’ programme.
- The process begins with a field survey and mapping of the terrain area to understand the ecosystem and demarcate the areas needing urgent attention.
(News from PIB)
Part of: GS-Prelims and Mains GS-III: Indian Economy
In News: Government has approved setting up of 7 Mega Integrated Textile Region and Apparel (PM MITRA) Parks with a total outlay of Rs. 4,445 crore in a period of 5 years.
- Will be developed by a Special Purpose Vehicle which will be owned by State Government and Government of India in a Public Private Partnership (PPP) Mode.
- World-class industrial infrastructure would attract cutting age technology and boost FDI and local investment in the sector
- Will offer an opportunity to create an integrated textiles value chain right from spinning, weaving, processing/dyeing and printing to garment manufacturing at 1 location
- Intended to generate ~1 lakh direct and 2 lakh indirect employment per park
- The Park will have –
- Core Infrastructure: Incubation Centre & Plug & Play facility, Developed Factory Sites, Roads, Power, Water and Waste Water system, Common Processing House & CETP and other related facilities e.g. Design Centre, Testing Centres etc.
- Support Infrastructure: Workers’ hostels & housing, logistics park, warehousing, medical, training & skill development facilities
‘5F’ Formula encompasses – Farm to fibre; fibre to factory; factory to fashion; fashion to foreign
News Source: PIB
Part of: GS-Prelims
- The acronym SVAMITA stands for Survey of Villages and Mapping with Improvised Technology in Village Areas.
- It is a Central Sector Scheme (100% by Union Government) implemented by Union Ministry of Panchayat Raj
- It is aimed at “providing ‘record of rights’ to village household owners possessing houses in inhabited rural areas in villages and issuance of property cards to the property owners.”
- The government aims to provide such property cards to each household in the next three to four years in every village across the country.
- The plan is to survey all rural properties using drones and prepare GIS based maps for each village.
News Source: PIB
Part of: GS-Prelims and Mains GS-II: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health
In News: Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP) has completed the target of opening of 8,300 Mantri Bhartiya Jan Aushadhi Kendras (PMBJKs), thus achieving the target of FY 2021-22 in just 6 months.
- All the districts of the country have been covered under Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Jan Aushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP).
- Effective IT-enabled logistics and supply-chain systems for ensuring real-time distribution of medicines at all outlets have also been introduced.
- Product basket of PMBJP presently comprises 1,451 drugs and 240 surgical instruments. Further, new medicines and nutraceutical products like glucometer, protein powder, malt-based food supplements, protein bar, immunity bar, etc. have been launched.
Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP)
- It is being run by the Department of Pharmaceuticals, Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers, Government of India
- Vision: To bring down the healthcare budget of every citizen of India through providing “Quality generic Medicines at Affordable Prices”.
- Pradhan Mantri Janaushadhi Kendra is a medical outlet opened under the scheme which makes quality medicines available at affordable prices for all.
- Janaushadhi Sugam a mobile application for Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP) facilitates the public by providing a digital platform at the tip of their fingers.
News Source: PIB
- GS-2: Foreign Policy & International Relations
Context: Today, we are neither in a bipolar Cold War nor in a multipolar world, though perhaps tending towards a world of several power centres.
- The lack of a coherent international response to the COVID-19 pandemic is proof of an absence of international order and of the ineffectiveness of multilateral institutions.
Changing Geopolitical Development
- Secular stagnation in the global and Indian economies
- The regionalisation of trade
- Rise of China
- The geopolitical and economic centres of gravity have shifted from the Atlantic to Asia
- Structural China-United States strategic rivalry.
- Inequality between and within states has bred a narrow nationalism and parochialism.
- Retreat from globalisation
- Emergence of new polarised information age
- Ecological crises and climate change as an existential threat.
Rise of China & its implication on India
- Over the next decade Asia will become the main platform for geopolitical rivalries.
- U.S. remains the most formidable power, though its relative power is declining.
- China sees a window of opportunity but acts in a hurry believing that window may close or is already closing due to pushback from the West and others.
- China’s crowded geography constrains her both on land and at sea.
- There is a slim prospect of Chinese hegemony in Asia with its expanding profile & power, particularly in our periphery.
- The result is likely continued friction, some cooperation, and quasi-adversarial relations between India and China, which others will take advantage of.
- As neighbours and in the present situation, a mix of confrontation and cooperation is likely to continue to mark India’s relations with China.
- Overall, we do not expect conventional conflict between the great powers in Asia, though other forms and levels of violence and contention in the international system will rise, with Taiwan a special case.
Opportunities for India amidst this transformation
- Increasing security congruence with the U.S. could enable growing cooperation in fields significant for India’s transformation: energy, trade, investment, education and health.
- Other areas in which India and the U.S. could increase cooperation are: climate change and energy, on tech solutions for renewable energy, and on digital cooperation.
- Several middle powers are now India’s natural partners. There is also an increasing possibility of working with partners in the developing world building broader coalitions on issues of common interest.
- This time of transition between orders is also when new standards and norms are being developed, particularly in the digital space. India can and must be present while devising these new norms.
Way Forward for India
- Creation of a Maritime Commission, a Bay of Bengal Initiative with partner countries, to further cement India’s favourable position in maritime arena.
- Increasing what India does with South East Asia in maritime security, cybersecurity and counter-terrorism. India should aim for multipolarity in Asia.
- India’s foreign policy should be based on the core strategic principles in Non-Alignment 2.0 which are still relevant:
- Independent judgement
- Developing our capacities
- Creating an equitable and enabling international order for India’s transformation.
- India has no choice but to engage with the uncertain and more volatile world. One productive way to do so would be through issue-based coalitions including different actors, depending on who has an interest and capability.
- Self-strengthening to reinvigorate India’s interests in neighbourhood
- The over securitisation of policy towards our neighbours has driven trade underground, criminalised our borders, and enabled large-scale entry of Chinese goods destroying local industry in the northeast.
- While lessening dependence on China, and seeking external balancing, our primary effort has to concentrate on self-strengthening.
- Globalisation has been central to India’s growth. Self-reliance in today’s world and technologies can only be realised if India is a part of the global economy.
Connecting the dots:
SCIENCE & TECH
- GS-3: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology.
Context: Physicians at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) have successfully treated a patient with severe depression by recognising and tapping into the brain circuits linked with depressive brain patterns.
- The physicians have tried to reset these patterns, which they have said is the equivalent of using a pacemaker for the heart.
- The doctors used an existing technique called deep brain stimulation (DBS), customising it for this patient’s case.
What is deep brain stimulation (DBS)?
- DBS is a surgical procedure in which electrodes are implanted into certain brain areas.
- These electrodes, or leads, generate electrical impulses that control abnormal brain activity.
- The electrical impulses can also adjust for the chemical imbalances within the brain that cause various conditions
- Traditional DBS has three components (refer above figure):
- The electrode, or lead. This is a thin, insulated wire inserted through a small opening in the skull and implanted into a specific brain area.
- The extension wire. This too is insulated, and is passed under the skin of the head, neck and shoulder, connecting the electrode to the third component of the system.
- The internal pulse generator (IPG) is the third component. It is usually implanted under the skin in the upper chest.
What diseases can be treated with DBS?
- Conditions that are traditionally treated using DBS include dystonia, epilepsy, essential tumour, obsessive-compulsive disorder and Parkinson’s disease.
- In treating depression, however, previous clinical trials with DBS has shown limited success because most devices are only able to deliver constant electrical stimulation to one area of the brain.
- During the latest research & treatment, scientists customised a new DBS device, which would stimulate the brain whenever it recognised the depressive pattern.
- Additionally, scientists had also found a neural biomarker that indicated the onset of symptoms. Using the customised DBS device, they were able to stimulate a different area of the brain, which in turn created immediate therapy for the brain.
Connecting the dots:
(AIR – Perspective)
Sep 16 – Helping hand for Telecom – https://youtu.be/QQDo7LMUVMI
- GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
- GS-3: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment.
- GS-3: Infrastructure: Telecommunications etc.
Context: Indian telecom industry has grown exponentially over the last two decades. It has also gone through consolidation. However, increasing competition, costly spectrum and decline in revenue has hurt the industry. The government has tried it’s best to bail it out. In its recent effort, the cabinet announced a number of decisions, which might help the industry to recover from its bad phase.
- In October 2019, the Supreme Court had ordered telecom operators to pay Rs 1.47 lakh crore to the Department of Telecommunications as pending AGR-dues
- However, in September 2020, the Supreme Court had granted 10 years to the telecom companies to clear their AGR dues of around Rs 1.47 lakh crore to the Centre.
- These AGR dues (along with disruption caused Jio’s entry) had impacted the cash flow of various telecos that had wider impact on the Telecom sector itself. There were fears about a duopoly emerging with just two major telecom players — Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio.
- However, the government was keen on ensuring that there were more players in the sector and customer retaining choices. Competition in the sector will always lead to better prices and better technology.
Decisions by Cabinet to provide Relief
- Four-year moratorium on payment of statutory dues by telecom companies, both AGR and spectrum charges
- Simplified Definition of AGR: The definition of AGR has been rationalised by excluding non-telecom revenue of telecom companies on a prospective basis (from now onwards)
- Telecom operators are required to pay licence fees and spectrum charges in the form of ‘revenue share’ to the government
- The revenue amount used to calculate this revenue share is termed as Adjusted Gross Revenue or AGR
- Relaxation in FDI: 100 per cent FDI in telecom via the automatic route has been approved (earlier 49%)
- Charges Rationalised: The regime of heavy interest, penalty and interest on penalty on payment of licence fees, spectrum charges and all kinds of charges has been rationalised.
- Reduced Interest: The Centre will do annual compounding of interest instead of the monthly compounding. The interest would be charged at a ‘reasonable’ rate of MCLR plus 2%.
- MCLR refers to the lowest lending rate banks are permitted to offer — the marginal cost of funds-based lending rate.
- Long periods of spectrum usage: Spectrum auctions will be held in the last quarter of every financial year. Spectrum auction will be done for 30 years, instead of 20 years. After completing 10-years lock-in period, the buyer will have the option to surrender by paying surrender charges.
- Ease of doing business: Spectrum sharing has been completely allowed and made free. Also, shifting between prepaid, post-paid to not require fresh KYC
Significance of the Decisions taken
- Relief to multiple Telecos: The package provides relief for debt-ridden Vodafone Idea which still owes roughly Rs 50,000 crore to the government as AGR dues. It also provides relief to Tata group (dues of Rs. 12,601 crores) and Aircel (Rs. 12,389 crores).
- Relief for the cash-strapped telecom sector.: Moratorium on AGR dues provides an annual cash flow relief of around ₹14,000 crore for the industry while the moratorium on spectrum dues gives another ₹32,000 crore of annual cash flow relief as a whole.
- The reform package, therefore, provides telcos the flexibility to manage their cash flows better and boosts growth in the telecoms industry
- Safeguards Banking Health: Banking sector’s exposure to the telecom players is significant at over Rs 1 lakh crore. The telecom package comes as a relief to the banks as it prevents the possibility of default by vulnerable telecos (Vodafone). This would help in stabilising and reducing the non-performing assets in the sector.
- Boost to Digital future: These fresh reforms will further boost telecos efforts to invest in future digital technologies and preparing the infrastructure for India’s digital economy.
Measures such as streamlining of the auction calendar and removal of the spectrum usage charges (SUC) from auctions, too, are likely to bring down the dues outgo, while helping telcos plan their auction purchase. For the telcos to benefit from the reduced SUC, however, they will have to buy more spectrum in upcoming auctions.
How far can the measures be expected to help save Vodafone Idea’s market?
Although the government insists these measures would be for everyone, it is Vodafone Idea, with a net debt of close to Rs 1.9 lakh crore, that will benefit the most in the near future. The company, however, will need to raise adequate capital urgently, and go for a sizeable hike in 4G tariff for prepaid customers.
Vodafone Idea will also have to fend off increased competition from Reliance Jio Infocomm and Bharti Airtel, which have more breathing space and manageable debt situation. The option of moratorium is open for all. While Vodafone Idea focuses on revival, which is a possibility now, Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel can go back to being more aggressive whether it is in terms of offering better network and services or extremely competitive tariffs and add-ons.
How do the reforms impact the government’s finances?
The government has insisted that since all the moratorium offerings are done with net present value protected, it will face some revenue loss in the next four financial years even if two of the three private players opt for it.
For the current financial year, the government had estimated receipts of Rs 53,987 crore from spectrum usage charges, licence fee levies and other levies. The bulk of this, however, will have to be forgone for four financial years once the telcos opt for the moratorium.
At the end of the moratorium period, the government will have to provide an option to the telecom player to pay the interest arising out of the deferment of payment by way of equity, and at the option of the government, to convert the due into equity. This will be a challenge for the government to offload the stake later if market conditions do not improve.
- Past Dues remain: The change in definition of AGR that will reduce the burden on telcos, applies only prospectively, so those past dues remain payable.
- Temporary Measure: While it provides time to put their house in order, the telcos’ overall liability does not come down and ultimately they will have to raise tariffs to generate sufficient cash flows. AGR dues will have to be paid with interest.
- Unfulfilled Demands: A long-standing demand for the government’s intervention in setting telecom floor tariffs, as it has done in the civil aviation sector to protect competition, did not find a place in the relief package
Can you answer the following question?
How did the financial condition of the telcos deteriorate? Examine the Supreme Court verdict.
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)
- Correct answers of today’s questions will be provided in next day’s DNA section. Kindly refer to it and update your answers.
Q.1 Mosquirix recently seen in news is associated with which of the following?
- Vaccine for Dengue
- Vaccine for Malaria
- Drug for treating symptoms of Rabies
- Genetic Engineering technique to change genes of mosquitoes
Q.2 The PM MITRA Parks scheme is associated with which of the following?
- Medicinal equipment
- Private mandis
- Foreign education
Q.3 Hara Bhara campaign has been launched by which of the following states?
- Uttar Pradesh
- Madhya Pradesh
ANSWERS FOR 6th Oct 2021 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)
On WTO Issues:
On Urbanisation Policy: