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05 May, 2020

67 Min Read

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Paper Topics Subject
GS-II World Press Freedom Index 2020
“The Saras collection” on Gem portal
Off Course-Issues related to Cauvery Water Management Authority Governance
Centre’s Directive to use Aarogya Setu app
GS-III Official Digital Currency-China Economic Issues
Russia to launch first satellite to monitor artic climate
Kisan Sabha App Economic Issues
Pradhan Mantri Jan Aushadhi kendras playing vital role to combat CoVID 19-PMBJP Economic Issues
India’s manufacturing sector activity hits record low in April amid lockdown: PMI Survey Economic Issues
GS-IV Ramadan marks the revelation of the Quran Ethics
PT Pointer UV Blaster
Important GS Topics Arctic Council
GS-II :
World Press Freedom Index 2020

World Press Freedom Index 2020

Part of: GS-II- Major world reports (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

The latest survey of the global body, Reporters without Borders, that shows India dropping two places on the global press freedom index ranking to 142nd place in the list of 180 countries. India’s neighbours — Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka — are ranked higher in the list.

Imp Points

  • The report on “The World Press Freedom Index 2020”, which was released, said that with no murders of journalists in India in 2019, as against six in 2018, the security situation for the country's media might seem, on the face of it, to have improved.
  • However, there have been constant press freedom violations, including police violence against journalists, ambushes by political activists, and reprisals instigated by criminal groups or corrupt local officials,” it said.
  • In 2010, India was ranked 122, which has been steadily declining. In 2013 and 2014 it slipped to 140 place. But in 2015, it improved four positions to be placed at 136. In 2016, it further improved to be at 133. In 2017, it was back at 136. Next two years, 2018 and 2019 it slipped two ranks, to be at 138 and 140 respectively.
  • Norway is ranked first in the Index for the fourth year running. China at 177, is just three places above North Korea, which is at 180.
  • The theme for 2020’s World Press Freedom Day is Journalism without Fear or Favour, an idea that becomes especially significant during the Covid-19 crisis, when the press has been declared an essential service, and journalists deemed a vital part of the frontline battle against coronavirus.

Background
World Press Freedom Day was started by the UN General Assembly in December 1993 in accordance with recommendations by UNESCO’s General Conference.

This particular date 3 May was chosen to coincide with the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek — the declaration of free press principles put together by newspaper journalists in Africa during a UNESCO seminar called Promoting an Independent and Pluralistic African Press in Windhoek, Namibia in 1991.

The journalists’ statement called for an independent and pluralistic media across the world. It saw a free press as essential to democracy and a fundamental human right.
This special day is meant to be a reminder to governments about their need to commit to a free press. It also serves as a day for media professionals to reflect on issues of press freedom, professional ethics and their role.

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GS-II :
“The Saras collection” on Gem portal

“The Saras collection” on Gem portal

Part of: GS-II- Rural development (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

Union Minister of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj launched “The Saras Collection” on the Government e Marketplace (GeM) portal.  

Imp Points

  • The Saras Collection showcases daily utility products made by rural self-help groups (SHGs) and aims to provide SHGs in rural areas with market access to Central and State Government buyers.
  • It is a unique initiative of GeM and the Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NRLM).
  • Under this initiative, the SHG sellers will be able to list their products in 5 product categories, namely  handicrafts,  handloom and textiles,  office accessories, grocery and pantry and personal care and hygiene.
  • The Rural Development Ministry said that in the first phase, 913 SHGs from 11 States have already registered as sellers and 442 products have been on-boarded. 
  • GeM will provide dashboards for functionaries at the national, state, district and block level to provide them real time information about the number of products uploaded by SHGs, and value and volume of orders received and fulfilled.

In addition, Government Potential buyers will be able to search, view, cart and procure such products through the stipulated modes of procurement. By providing SHGs with direct access to Government buyers, the Saras Collection will do away with intermediaries in the supply chain and will ensure better prices for SHGs and spurring employment opportunities at the local level.

Government e-Marketplace (GeM)

  • GeM is a one-stop National Public Procurement Portal to facilitate online procurement of common use Goods & Services required by various Central and State Government Departments / Organizations /Public Sector Undertakings ( PSUs).
  • It was launched in 2016 to bring transparency and efficiency in the government buying process.
  • It operates under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
  • The procurement of goods and services by Ministries and the Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs) is mandatory for goods and services available on GeM.
  • It also provides the tools of e-bidding and reverse e-auction to facilitate the government users achieve the best value for their money.
  • At present, GeM has more than 15 lakh products, around 20,000 services, and more than 40,000 Government buyer organizations.

 

DAY-NRLM

The chief features of the scheme are as follows:

  • Universal social mobilisation: A minimum of one lady member of a rural poor household (with particular emphasis on the marginal sections) is to be brought in the network of an SHG.
  • Participatory Identification of Poor
  • Community Funds as Resources in Perpetuity: this is to strengthen the financial management capacity of the poor
  • Financial inclusion
  • Livelihoods: the mission focuses on promoting and stabilising the existing livelihood structures of the poor through its three pillars:
    • Vulnerability reduction & Livelihoods enhancement – through expanding existing livelihoods and tapping new livelihood opportunities in both the farm and non-farm sectors
    • Employment – building skills
    • Enterprises – promoting self-employment
  • Another important feature of this scheme is that it places a high priority to convergence and partnerships with other government schemes of the Rural Development Ministry. It also seeks to have linkages with the Panchayati Raj institutions.
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GS-II : Governance
Off Course-Issues related to Cauvery Water Management Authority

Off Course

Introduction

The latest political row to erupt in Tamil Nadu is around the Centre’s April 24 notification bringing the Cauvery Water Management Authority under the administrative control of the Union Ministry of Jal Shakti, which was created a year ago by combining two Ministries.

Issues in this Central notification

The Opposition, and some farmers’ associations were upset with the notification on the ground that the move has reduced the Authority to a “puppet” of the Centre.

They point out that the CWMA was created on the direction of the Supreme Court in February 2018. It is also argued that between June 2018-May 2019, when the Union Ministry of Water Resources was in existence, there was no public notification on the CWMA being designated as an organisation under the Ministry.

Weak argument

Such an argument is weak, as the CWMA, a body corporate, has been working all along under the Ministry. Even in the case of its predecessor, the Cauvery River Authority (1998-2013) with the Prime Minister as the Chairman and Chief Ministers of the basin States as Members, the Union Ministry of Water Resources had administrative control.

In fact, the CWMA has had only a part-time head, the chairman of the Central Water Commission (CWC), attached to the Ministry.

Besides, there are eight inter-State river water boards under the Jal Shakti Ministry. Along with the CWMA, four other bodies, including the Krishna and the Godavari Water Management Boards — which have been in existence since 2014 following the re-organisation of Andhra Pradesh — were designated to be under the Ministry.

The formalisation of the CWMA’s status corrects an apparent lapse on the Ministry’s part and addresses administrative issues.

The notification does not, in any way, alter the character, functions or powers of the CWMA that form part of a scheme drawn up a few years ago, and which was approved by the Supreme Court.

Way Ahead

If there is anything the Centre can be blamed for, it is the way the CWMA functions. Even two years after its formation, the Authority does not have a full-fledged chairman.

The Centre would do well to act, at least now, in making the CWMA fully operational, when the southwest monsoon is about to set in.

The parties should realise that electoral gains or losses are not always linked to their stand on any one issue, even if it is the Cauvery, the lifeline of Tamil Nadu’s rice bowl.

 

Constitutional Provisions to solve the interstate water disputes

Entry 17 of State List deals with water i.e. water supply, irrigation, canal, drainage, embankments, water storage and water power.

Entry 56 of Union List empowers the Union Government for the regulation and development of inter-state rivers and river valleys to the extent declared by Parliament to be expedient in the public interest.

According to Article 262, in case of disputes relating to waters:

a.Parliament may by law provide for the adjudication of any dispute or complaint with respect to the use, distribution or control of the waters of, or in, any inter-State river or river valley.

b.Parliament may, by law provide that neither the Supreme Court nor any other court shall exercise jurisdiction in respect of any such dispute or complaint as mentioned above.

Mechanism for Inter-State River Water Disputes Resolution

  • The resolution of water dispute is governed by the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, 1956.

# (According to its provisions, if a State Government makes a request regarding any water dispute and the Central Government is of opinion that the water dispute cannot be settled by negotiations, then a Water Disputes Tribunal is constituted for the adjudication of the water dispute.)

  • The act was amended in 2002, to include the major recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission.

# (The amendments mandated a one year time frame to setup the water disputes tribunal and also a 3 year time frame to give a decision.)

Active River Water Dispute Tribunals in India

  • Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal II (2004) – Karnataka, Telangana, Andra Pradesh, Maharashtra
  • Mahanadi Water Disputes Tribunal (2018) – Odisha & Chattisgarh
  • Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal (2010) – Goa,Karnataka, Maharashtra
  • Ravi & Beas Water Tribunal (1986) – Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan
  • Vansadhara Water Disputes Tribunal (2010) – Andra Pradesh & Odisha.

Issues with Interstate Water Dispute Tribunals

  • Protracted proceedings and extreme delays in dispute resolution.
    • For example, in the case of Godavari water dispute, the request was made in 1962, but the tribunal was constituted in 1968 and the award was given in 1979 which was published in the Gazette in 1980.
    • The Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal, constituted in 1990, gave its final award in 2007.
  • Opacity in the institutional framework and guidelines that define these proceedings; and ensuring compliance.
  • Though award is final and beyond the jurisdiction of Courts, either States can approach Supreme Court under Article 136 (Special Leave Petition) under Article 32 linking issue with the violation of Article 21 (Right to Life).
  • The composition of the tribunal is not multidisciplinary and it consists of persons only from the judiciary.
  • The absence of authoritative water data that is acceptable to all parties currently makes it difficult to even set up a baseline for adjudication.
  • The shift in tribunals' approach, from deliberative to adversarial, aids extended litigation and politicisation of water-sharing disputes.
  • The growing nexus between water and politics have transformed the disputes into turfs of vote bank politics.
    • This politicisation has also led to increasing defiance by states, extended litigations and subversion of resolution mechanisms.
    • For example, the Punjab government played truant in the case of the Ravi-Beas tribunal.
  • Too much discretion at too many stages of the process.
    • Partly because of procedural complexities involving multiple stakeholders across governments and agencies.
    • India’s complicated federal polity and its colonial legacy.

The Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill, 2017

  • In order to further streamline the adjudication of inter-State river water disputes, the Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill, 2017 was introduced in Lok Sabha in March 2017 by amending the existing ISRWD Act, 1956.
  • The Bill envisages to constitute a standalone Tribunal with permanent establishment and permanent office space and infrastructure so as to obviate the need to set up a separate Tribunal for each water dispute which is invariably a time consuming process.
  • In the proposed Bill, there is a provision for establishment of a Dispute Resolution Committee (DRC) by the Central Government for resolving amicably, the inter-State water disputes within a maximum period of one year and six months.
  • Any dispute, which cannot be settled by negotiations shall be referred to the Tribunal for its adjudication.
  • The dispute so referred to the Tribunal shall be assigned by the Chairperson of the Tribunal to a Bench of the Tribunal for adjudication.
  • Under the Bill, the requirement of publication of the final decision of tribunal in the official gazette has been removed.
  • The Bill adds that the decision of the bench of the tribunal will be final and binding on the parties involved in the dispute
  • The Bill also calls for the transparent data collection system at the national level for each river basin and a single agency to maintain data bank and information system.
  • The proposed amendments in the Bill will speed up the adjudication of water disputes referred to it.
  • The Bill was referred to Parliamentary Standing Committee on Water Resources for examination.
  • The Standing Committee has submitted its recommendation on the Bill, accordingly, the Ministry has prepared draft Cabinet Note for Official Amendments to Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill, 2017.

 

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GS-II :
Centre’s Directive to use Aarogya Setu app

App for one season: Centre’s Directive to use Aarogya Setu app

Introduction

The Centre’s national directive for the mandatory use of its contact tracing app, Aarogya Setu, as part of its COVID-19 combat measures, falls short of established legal standards for the protection of privacy.

Issues in making it mandatory to use Aarogya Setu app

The first requirement laid down by the Supreme Court in K.S. Puttaswamy, namely, a law authorising the involuntary use of such an app, has not been fulfilled.

The government has no power to make the app’s use compulsory without legislative authorisation.

There is no legislative guidance for the app’s purpose, functioning, and the nature of the use of the sensitive personal data it collects.

Lawyers and activists have raised concerns not only over privacy; they also fear that assessments made on the basis of information collected may be used to restrict public movement and access.

The absence of a sunset clause or a rule limiting the purpose for which the data can be used or spelling out the entities authorised to use them are all valid concerns.

It is mandatory for:

Going by the directive issued under the Disaster Management Act, all people residing in ‘containment zones’, all government and public sector staff and all employees, both public and private, who are allowed to work during the lockdown, will have to download the app, which also cautions against not keeping the phone’s location and Bluetooth on.

Aarogya Setu seems to be quite popular

However, Aarogya Setu seems to be quite popular — downloads have crossed 75 million. And what the government has going for itself is that many countries are implementing mobile app use for contact tracing.

More and more governments are introducing applications for automated location services to trace the contacts of those infected.

Way Ahead

India should abide by best practices elsewhere. The EU has laid down guidelines to the effect that such app use should be voluntary, that it should preserve user privacy and should not be used after it becomes no longer necessary.

Israel’s Supreme Court recently struck down emergency powers given to the country’s intelligence agency to trace the phone location of COVID-19 patients without enabling legislation.

Australia’s tracking app has sparked privacy concerns, but the government has released a privacy impact assessment.

While the intention behind the app’s introduction may be good — as it is a given that the government is keen on doing everything possible to keep a watch on the spread of the virus so that the lockdown, as well as relaxations given to zones based on colour-coding, are effective — it would be well-advised to heed privacy concerns raised by the Opposition, allay fears that it may become a permanent mass surveillance instrument and ensure that there is sufficient anonymising of data and its limited access. It has a duty to resort to methods that cause the least harm.

 

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GS-III : Economic Issues
Official Digital Currency-China

Official Digital Currency-China

Part of: GS-III- Digital currency (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

Recently, China has started testing its official digital currency which is unofficially called “Digital Currency Electronic Payment, DC/EP”.

Imp Points

  • The digital currency of China has not been officially released but internal pilot tests are being carried out in four cities of China.
  • China is expected to officially make the sovereign digital currency available to the public later in 2020.
  • It could be considered the world’s first Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) if it is officially issued by state bank People’s Bank of China.
  • The total size of China’s digital currency could reach one trillion yuan ($140 billion), equivalent to about one-eighth of China’s cash.

Digital Currency

  • Digital currency is a payment method which exists only in electronic form and is not tangible.
  • Digital currency can be transferred between entities or users with the help of technology like computers, smartphones and the internet.
  • Although it is similar to physical currencies, digital money allows borderless transfer of ownership as well as instantaneous transactions.
  • Digital currency is also known as digital money and cybercash.
  • E.g. Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency

  • cryptocurrency is a digital or virtual currency that uses cryptography for security.
  • Cryptocurrencies use decentralized technology to let users make secure payments and store money without the need to use their name or go through a bank.
  • They run on a distributed public ledger called blockchain, which is a record of all transactions updated and held by currency holders.
  • The most common cryptocurrencies are Bitcoin, Libra, Ethereum, Ripple, and Litecoin.

India’s Stand on Digital Currency

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had banned cryptocurrencies in 2018.
    • RBI had considered cryptocurrencies as a poor unit of account and also demonstrated by their frequent and high fluctuation in value.
    • RBI also stated that it pose several risks, including anti-money laundering and terrorism financing concerns (AML/CFT) for the state and liquidity, credit, and operational risks for users.
    • It had also said that it would seriously consider developing a sovereign digital currency when the time is appropriate
  • Subsequently, the Supreme Court has struck down a circular of the RBI, which bans financial institutions from enabling deals in digital or cryptocurrencies.
    • The ban was challenged by the Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMA) sighting that dealing and trading in cryptocurrency was a legitimate business activity and that the RBI did not have jurisdiction over it as these assets could be classified as commodities rather than currency.
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GS-III :
Russia to launch first satellite to monitor artic climate

Russia to launch first satellite to monitor artic climate

Part of: GS-III- S&T (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

Russia will launch first Arktika-M satellite for monitoring Arctic climate this year at the end of the year, General Director of Lavochkin aerospace company Vladimir Kolmykov told sputnik news agency. He said as of now first satellite is developed and the launch is planned for 2020. The satellite will be launched by Soyuz-21b carrier rocket with frigate booster. The remote sensing  Artika-M will monitor the  meteorological conditions in the polar region.

 

India and Arctic

I. The National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research has been renamed as the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research.

Three decades after its first mission to Antarctica, the government is refocusing priorities to the other pole — the Arctic — because of opportunities and challenges posed by climate change.

This month, it has renamed the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR) — since 1998, charged with conducting expeditions to India’s base stations to the continent — as the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research. It’s also in talks with Canada and Russia, key countries with presence in the Arctic circle, to establish new observation systems, according to a source. Now, India only has one Arctic observation station near Norway.

Along with the Arctic, India’s earth sciences community also views the Himalayas as a “third pole” because of the large quantities of snow and ice it holds, and proposes to increase research spends towards understanding the impact of climate change in the Himalayas. It has already established a high-altitude research station in the Himalayas, called HIMANSH, at Spiti, Himachal.

While annual missions to maintain India’s three bases in Antarctica will continue, the new priorities mean that there will be more expeditions and research focus on the other poles, earth science ministry.

Climate change, said the source, was a decisive factor in India re-thinking priorities. Sea ice at the Arctic has been melting rapidly — the fastest in this century. That means several spots, rich in hydrocarbon reserves, will be more accessible through the year via alternative shipping routes.

India is already an observer at the Arctic Council — a forum of countries that decides on managing the region’s resources and popular livelihood and, in 2015, set up an underground observatory, called IndARC, at the Kongsfjorden fjord, half way between Norway and the North Pole.

Why Artic research?

A big worry for India is the impact of melting sea ice on the monsoon. Over the years scientists across the world are reporting that the rapid ice-melt in the Arctic is leading to large quantities of fresh water into the seas around the poles. This impedes the release of heat from the water and directs warm water into the seas around India, the theory goes, and eventually weakens the movement of the monsoon breeze into India. “Therefore we need more observations and stations in the Arctic countries to improve understanding of these processes,” the source added.

II. India’s Antarctic Missions

  • India officially acceded to the Antarctic Treaty System on 1st August 1983. On 12 September 1983, she became the fifteenth Consultative Member of the Antarctic Treaty.
  • India is expanding its infrastructure development in Antarctica.
  • The newest base commissioned in 2015 is Bharati.
  • India is rebuilding its station, Maitri, to make it bigger and last for at least 30 more years.
  • Dakshin Gangotri, the first Indian base established in 1984, has weakened and become just a supply base.

III. India’s Vishnu Nandan will be the only Indian aboard the multidisciplinary drifting observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAiC) expedition.

He will be aboard the German research vessel Polarstern, anchored on a large sheet of sea ice in the Central Arctic, drifting along with it during the pitch-black Polar winter.

About MOSAiC:

  • Spearheaded by the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany.
  • It is the largest ever Arctic expedition in history.
  • It will be the first to conduct a study of this scale at the North Pole for an entire year.
  • The aim of the expedition will be to parameterise the atmospheric, geophysical, oceanographic and all other possible variables in the Arctic, and use it to more accurately forecast the changes in our weather systems.
  • The international expedition will involve more than 60 institutions from 19 countries.

Significance:

  • MOSAiC will contribute to a quantum leap in our understanding of the coupled Arctic climate system and its representation in global climate models.
  • The focus of MOSAiC lies on direct in-situ observations of the climate processes that couple the atmosphere, ocean, sea ice, biogeochemistry, and ecosystem.

Why study and understand about changes in the Arctic?

  • The Arctic is the key area of global climate change, with warming rates exceeding twice the global average and warming during winter even larger.
  • It is well possible that the Arctic ocean will become ice free in summer during the 21st century.
  • This dramatic change strongly affects weather and climate on the whole northern hemisphere and fuels rapid economic development in the Arctic.
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GS-III : Economic Issues
Kisan Sabha App

Kisan Sabha App

Part of: GS-III- Agriculture (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

The CSIR-Central Road Research Institute (CSIR-CRRI), New Delhi has developed the Kisan Sabha App to connect farmers to the supply chain and freight transportation management system. The app also intends to provide a robust supply chain management required to facilitate the timely delivery of the products at the best possible prices during the present situation of Covid-19.

Imp Points

  • Aim:
    • Kisan Sabha aims to provide the most economical and timely logistics support to the farmers.
    • It also intends to increase the profit margins for farmers by minimizing interference of middlemen and directly connecting with the institutional buyers.
    • It will also help in providing best market rates of crops by comparing nearest mandis, booking of freight vehicles at cheapest cost thereby giving maximum benefit to the farmers.
  • Stakeholders Involved:
    • The app connects the farmers, transporters, Service providers (like pesticides/ fertilizer/ dealers, cold store and warehouse owner), mandi dealers, customers (like big retail outlets, online stores, institutional buyers) and other related entities for a timely and effective solution.
  • Function:
    • It acts as a single stop for every entity related to agriculture, be they a farmer who needs better price for the crops or mandi dealer who wants to connect to more farmers or truckers who invariably go empty from the mandis.
    • Kisan Sabha also provides a platform for people who want to buy directly from the farmers.

CSIR-Central Road Research Institute (CSIR-CRRI)

  • The Central Road Research Institute (CRRI) was established in 1952 as a constituent laboratory of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
  • It is located in Delhi.
  • It is the premier national research organization for highways traffic and transport planning and all other allied aspects.
  • It carries out R&D in the areas of road and road transportation and provides the highest level of professional consultancy.
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GS-III : Economic Issues
Pradhan Mantri Jan Aushadhi kendras playing vital role to combat CoVID 19-PMBJP

Pradhan Mantri Jan Aushadhi kendras playing vital role to combat CoVID 19-PMBJP

Part of: GS-III- Economy (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

Pradhan Mantri Jan Aushadi Kendras are playing a vital role in COVID-19 situation as around ten lakh persons per day are visiting  such Kendras to source quality medicines at affordable prices. Currently, six thousand Jan Aushadi Kendras are working round the clock across the country where at par quality medicines are sold at cheaper price by 50 percent to 90 percent of average market price. Last month, around 52 crore rupees worth of medicines have been supplied throughout the country. These Kendras are also selling Hydroxy chloroquine, N95 masks, three-ply masks, hand sanitizers and other items at cheaper price.

PMBJP

  • In November 2008, with an objective to make available generic medicines at affordable prices to all, the Department of Pharmaceuticals under the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers launched the “Jan Aushadhi Scheme”.
  • To reinvigorate the supply of affordable generic medicines with efficacy and quality equivalent to that of branded drugs, the scheme was revamped as “Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Jan Aushadhi Yojana” in 2015.
  • To provide further momentum to the ongoing scheme, it was again renamed as “Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Jan Aushadhi Pariyojana” (PMBJP).

PMBJP Objectives

The scheme aims at educating the masses about the generic medicines and that high prices are not always synonymous with high quality. It intends to cover all therapeutic groups and create demand for generic medicines through medical practitioners.

PMBJP Features

  • Under PMBJP, Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Kendras (PMBJK) are set up across the country so as to reduce the out of pocket expenses for health care.
  • The Bureau of Pharma PSUs of India (BPPI) under the Department of Pharmaceuticals is involved in coordinating, procuring, supplying and marketing generic medicines through PMBJK.
  • The procured generic medicines are sold at 50% to 90% lesser prices as compared to the market prices of branded medicines.
  • All drugs procured under this scheme are tested for quality assurance at NABL (National Accreditation Board Laboratories) accredited laboratories and is compliant with WHO GMP (World Health Organisation’s Good Manufacturing Practices) benchmarks. Government grants of up to 2.5 Lakhs are provided for setting up of PMBJKs.
  • They can be set up by doctors, pharmacists, entrepreneurs, Self Help Groups, NGOs, Charitable Societies, etc. at any suitable place or outside the hospital premises.
  • The railway ministry has given in-principle approval to opening up of Jan Aushadi Kendras at railway stations and other railway establishments under PMBJP. This is a significant move, as the access to generic medicines on railway stations would boost the accessibility, affordability of essential medicines and improve the convenience for the customers.
  • Jan Aushadi Oxo-Biodegradable Sanitary Napkins
    • Janaushadhi Kendras which sold sanitary napkins earlier for ?2.50, has now further reduced it to ?1 by adapting this technology.
    • These sanitary pads will be able to biodegrade after they have been discarded as soon as they come in contact with oxygen.
    • A very large number of women and girls suffer as good quality sanitary pads are not available at an affordable cost. This is mostly seen in village areas and other underprivileged areas of the country.

Jan Aushadi Sugam Application

The PMBJP launched a mobile application in order to help people locate the Janaushadhi Kendras in the areas around them.

Since smartphones are seen accessible to all the groups of the society, the PMBJP aims to promote their affordable healthcare scheme through available technology. Affordable healthcare seeker can easily find these PMBJK and get generic medicines at a substantially low cost compared to that of the branded OTC (over-the-counter) ones.

What is a Generic Medicine?

Generic medicines are unbranded medicines which are equally safe and having the same efficacy as that of branded medicines in terms of their therapeutic value. The prices of generic medicines are much cheaper than their branded equivalent.

Outreach of generic medicines:

  • With developments like more and more doctors prescribing generic medicines and opening of over 5050 Janaushadhi stores across 652 districts, awareness and availability of high quality affordable generic medicines has increased in the country. About 10-15 lakh people benefit from Janaushadhi medicines per day and the market share of generic medicines has grown over three fold from 2% to 7%in last 3 years.
  • The Janaushadhi medicines have played a big role in bringing down the out of pocket expenditure of patients suffering from life threatening diseases in India. The PMBJP scheme has led to total savings of approximately Rs.1000 crores for common citizens, as these medicines are cheaper by 50% to 90% of average market price.
  • The PMBJP is also providing a good source of self-employment with self-sustainable and regular earnings.
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GS-III : Economic Issues
India’s manufacturing sector activity hits record low in April amid lockdown: PMI Survey

India’s manufacturing sector activity hits record low in April amid lockdown: PMI Survey

Part of: GS-III- Economic data (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

The country's manufacturing sector activity witnessed unprecedented contraction in April amid national lockdown restrictions, following which new business orders collapsed at a record pace and firms sharply reduced their staff numbers, a monthly survey said.

The headline seasonally adjusted IHS Markit India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) fell to 27.4 in April, from 51.8 in March, reflecting the sharpest deterioration in business conditions across the sector since data collection began over 15 years ago.

The index slipped into contraction mode, after remaining in the growth territory for 32 consecutive months. In PMI index, a print above 50 means expansion, while a score below that denotes contraction.

Amid widespread business closures, demand conditions were severely hampered in April. New orders fell for the first time in two-and-a-half years and at the sharpest rate in the survey's history, far outpacing that seen during the global financial crisis, the survey said.

What is a PMI?

PMI or a Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) is an indicator of business activity — both in the manufacturing and services sectors. It is a survey-based measures that asks the respondents about changes in their perception of some key business variables from the month before. It is calculated separately for the manufacturing and services sectors and then a composite index is constructed.

 

How is the PMI derived?

The PMI is derived from a series of qualitative questions. Executives from a reasonably big sample, running into hundreds of firms, are asked whether key indicators such as output, new orders, business expectations and employment were stronger than the month before and are asked to rate them.

How does one read the PMI?

A figure above 50 denotes expansion in business activity. Anything below 50 denotes contraction. Higher the difference from this mid-point greater the expansion or contraction. The rate of expansion can also be judged by comparing the PMI with that of the previous month data. If the figure is higher than the previous month’s then the economy is expanding at a faster rate. If it is lower than the previous month then it is growing at a lower rate.

What are its implications for the economy?

The PMI is usually released at the start of the month, much before most of the official data on industrial output, manufacturing and GDP growth becomes available. It is, therefore, considered a good leading indicator of economic activity. Economists consider the manufacturing growth measured by the PMI as a good indicator of industrial output, for which official statistics are released later. Central banks of many countries also use the index to help make decisions on interest rates.

What does it mean for financial markets?

The PMI also gives an indication of corporate earnings and is closely watched by investors as well as the bond markets. A good reading enhances the attractiveness of an economy vis-a- vis another competing economy.

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GS-IV : Ethics
Ramadan marks the revelation of the Quran

Ramadan marks the revelation of the Quran, which places knowledge above all

GS: Ethics

(Rahamathunnissa A) The writer is national secretary, women’s department, Jama’at-e-Islami

Many think that Ramadan is a month of fasting and giving charity. But is it just for that? What is the actual reason for believers being commanded to observe fasting during this month? These are important questions and their answers will help anyone to utilise this time in a way that will benefit both believers as well as all of humanity.

The Quran says that it was during Ramadan that its revelation took place: “The month of Ramadan is that in which was revealed the Quran, guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion.” 2:185

Important Points

  • There is no Ramadan without the Quran. It is an anniversary of the Book of guidance, which transformed the illiterate Arabs into the most cultured and civilised people within a short period — the shortest in human history. There was no magic.
  • There were the guidelines sent through the Quran by Allah. Its first command was not to perform five times prayer or any spiritual activity.
  • It was: “Read in the name of thy Lord who has created..” 96:1 to 5
    The Quran, in another part, tells that those who have knowledge and those who do not have knowledge are not equal.
  • The Quran deals with practically every subject related to human life and all branches of knowledge. Spending resources on the path to acquiring knowledge is encouraged as an act of worship.
  • If one has to travel to seek knowledge, he can even combine and shorten his five prayers or postpone the compulsory fasting.
  • The Prophet taught that the word of wisdom is the lost property of a believer and wherever he finds it, he is most deserving of it. This means that a believer should search for knowledge in every place possible.
  • The following saying of the prophet encourages the pursuit of knowledge: “One who proceeds on a path in pursuit of knowledge, God makes him proceed therewith on a path to Paradise.
  • And verily, the angels spread their wings for the seekers of knowledge out of delight.
  • The learned are the heirs of the prophets, for the prophets did not leave behind a legacy of wealth but that of knowledge.”
  • Teaching someone is considered as an “ongoing charity” — such a person gets rewarded continuously even after his death. Teachers and learned scholars are held in high regard in Islamic societies.
  • The Quran doesn’t differentiate between worldly and spiritual knowledge.
  • The longest verse in the Quran talks about the procedures to be followed and the importance of documentation while lending or borrowing money (2:282).
  • There are many verses in the Quran that can be used as foundations for different branches of knowledge such as astronomy, economics, politics, law, ethics, philosophy, biology, environmental science, geography, zoology, sociology, history and medicine.
  • This is in addition to the guidelines and commands on spirituality and worship. Any branch of knowledge, as long as it benefits mankind, is considered holy. The Quran asks man to ponder and research the wonders of nature.

“Do they not observe the camels: How they were created? And the sky: How it was raised high? And the mountains: How they were fixed? And the earth: How it spread out?” 88: 17 to 20.

The Islamic world influenced medieval European life and culture in various fields. The European scholar Gerard of Cremona learned Arabic because of the “abundance of books in Arabic on every subject” and he translated 87 books from Arabic into Latin. Ramadan is the time to revisit the verses of the Quran and do more research on how to boost the world economy after the pandemic passes, as well as other issues facing the world.

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GS-III :
UV Blaster

UV Blaster: DRDO develops WiFi-enabled UV disinfection tower

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has developed an ultraviolet (UV) disinfection tower that can be used for rapid and chemical-free disinfection of infection-prone areas.

"UV blaster" is a UV-based area sanitizer designed and developed by Laser Science & Technology Centre (LASTEC), DRDO's Delhi-based premier laboratory.

The equipment has six lamps each with 43 watts of UV-C power at 254 nm wavelength for 360-degree illumination. For a room of about 12 x 12 feet dimension, the disinfection time is about 10 minutes and 30 minutes for 400 square feet area by positioning the equipment at different places within the room.

UV Blaster is useful for high-tech surfaces like electronic equipment, computers and other gadgets in laboratories and offices that are not suitable for disinfection with chemical methods. The product is also effective for areas with a large flow of people such as airports, shopping malls, metros, hotels, factories, offices, etc.

 

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GS-II :
Arctic Council

Arctic Council

Part of: GS-II- International organisation (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

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, in particular on issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic.

The Arctic Council works as a consensus-based body to deal with issues such as the change in biodiversity, melting sea ice, plastic pollution and black carbon.

History of Arctic Council

  • The formation of Arctic Council can be traced in the establishment of the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS) in 1991 as a framework for intergovernmental cooperation on environmental protection initiatives among the Arctic States including Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia, and the United States.
  • The AEPS tried to consult and engage Arctic indigenous people in recognition of their right over their ancestral homelands.
    • Three Indigenous Peoples Organizations (IPOs) representing Inuit (Inuit Circumpolar Council, ICC), Saami (Saami Council, SC), and Russian indigenous peoples (Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, RAIPON), respectively, were welcomed as observers in the AEPS.
    • As a consequence of a growing recognition of the special relationship of indigenous peoples to the Arctic region, the Arctic countries assigned the special status of Permanent Participants (PPs) to the three IPOs, thereby giving them a privileged status compared to the other AEPS Observers.

Formation of the Arctic Council

  • The Arctic Council is a high-level intergovernmental body set up in 1996 by the Ottawa declaration to promote cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States together with the indigenous communities and other Arctic inhabitants.
  • The Council has the eight circumpolar countries as member states and is mandated to protect the Arctic environment and promote the economies and social and cultural well-being of the indigenous people whose organizations are permanent participants in the council.
  • Arctic Council Secretariat: The standing Arctic Council Secretariat formally became operational in 2013 in Tromso, Norway.
    • It was established to provide administrative capacity, institutional memory, enhanced communication and outreach and general support to the activities of the Arctic Council.
  • The Council has members, ad hoc observer countries and "permanent participants"
    • Members of the Arctic Council: Ottawa Declaration declares Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden and the United States of America as a member of the Arctic Council. Denmarks represents Greenland and the Faroe Islands.

Criterion for Admitting Observers

In the determination by the Council of the general suitability of an applicant for observer status the Council will, inter alia, take into account the extent to which observers:

  • Accept and support the objectives of the Arctic Council defined in the Ottawa declaration.
  • Recognize Arctic State’s sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction in the Arctic. India has therefore officially recognised the territorial jurisdiction and sovereign rights of the Arctic states.
  • Recognize that an extensive legal framework applies to the Arctic Ocean including, notably, the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and that this framework provides a solid foundation for responsible management of this ocean. India has also accepted the UNCLOS as the governing instrument for the Arctic implying that jurisdiction over both the continental shelf and maritime passage, and the resources of the ocean will primarily lay with the eight Arctic States.
  • Respect the values, interests, culture and traditions of Arctic indigenous peoples and other Arctic inhabitants.
  • Have demonstrated a political willingness as well as financial ability to contribute to the work of the Permanent Participants and other Arctic indigenous peoples.
  • Have demonstrated their Arctic interests and expertise relevant to the work of the Arctic Council.
  • Have demonstrated a concrete interest and ability to support the work of the Arctic Council, including through partnerships with member states and Permanent Participants bringing Arctic concerns to global decision making bodies.

Mechanism of Council

  • The work of the Council is primarily carried out in six Working Groups.
  • Arctic Contaminants Action Program (ACAP): it acts as a strengthening and supporting mechanism to encourage national actions to reduce emissions and other releases of pollutants.
  • Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP): it 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.
  • Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna Working Group (CAFF): it addresses the conservation of Arctic biodiversity, working to ensure the sustainability of the Arctic’s living resources.
  • Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response Working Group (EPPR): it works to protect the Arctic environment from the threat or impact of an accidental release of pollutants or radionuclides.
  • Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) Working Group: it is the focal point of the Arctic Council’s activities related to the protection and sustainable use of the Arctic marine environment.
  • Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG): it works to advance sustainable development in the Arctic and to improve the conditions of Arctic communities as a whole.

Working of Council

  • Arctic Council assessments and recommendations are the result of analysis and efforts undertaken by the Working Groups. Decisions of the Arctic Council are taken by consensus among the eight Arctic Council States, with full consultation and involvement of the Permanent Participants.
  • The Chairmanship of the Arctic Council rotates every two years among the Arctic States. The first country to chair the Arctic Council was Canada (1996-1998). The next country to assume the Chairmanship will be Iceland (2019-2021). (PT)

Accomplishment of Council

  • The Arctic Council regularly produces comprehensive, cutting-edge environmental, ecological and social assessments through its Working Groups.
  • The Council has also provided a forum for the negotiation of three important legally binding agreements among the eight Arctic States.

The first, the Agreement on Cooperation on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue in the Arctic, was signed in Nuuk, Greenland, at the 2011 Ministerial Meeting.

The second, the Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic, was signed in Kiruna, Sweden, at the 2013 Ministerial meeting.

Third, the Agreement on Enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation, was signed in Fairbanks, Alaska at the 2017 Ministerial meeting.

India and the Arctic

  • India launched its first scientific expedition to the Arctic Ocean in 2007 and opened a research base named "Himadri” at the International Arctic Research Base at Ny-Alesund, Svalbard, Norway in July 2008 for carrying out studies in disciplines like Glaciology, Atmospheric sciences & Biological sciences.
  • The major objectives of the Indian Research in Arctic Region are as follows:
    • To study the hypothesized tele-connections between the Arctic climate and the Indian monsoon by analyzing the sediment and ice core records from the Arctic glaciers and the Arctic Ocean.
    • To characterize sea ice in the Arctic using satellite data to estimate the effect of global warming in the northern polar region.
    • To conduct research on the dynamics and mass budget of Arctic glaciers focusing on the effect of glaciers on sea-level change.
    • To carry out a comprehensive assessment of the flora and fauna of the Arctic and their response to anthropogenic activities. In addition, it is proposed to undertake a comparative study of the life forms from both the Polar Regions
  • India has been closely following the developments in the Arctic region in the light of the new opportunities and challenges emerging for the international community due to global warming induced melting of Arctic’s ice cap. India’s interests in the Arctic region are scientific, environmental, commercial as well as strategic.
  • In July 2018, Ministry of Earth Sciences renamed the “National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research” to the “National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research.” It is a nodal organisation coordinating the research activities at the stations at the poles.
  • India has also entered into MOU with Norwegian Polar Research Institute of Norway, for cooperation in science, and also with Kings Bay (A Norwegian Government owned company) at Ny-Alesund for the logistic and infrastructure facilities for undertaking Arctic research and maintaining Indian Research base ‘Himadri’ at Arctic region.
  • In 2019, India has been re-elected as an Observer to the Council. India does not have an official Arctic policy and its Arctic research objectives have been centred on ecological and environmental aspects, with a focus on climate change, till now.

Commercial and Strategic Interests

  • The Arctic region is very rich in minerals, and oil and gas. With some parts of the Arctic melting due to global warming, the region also opens up the possibility of new shipping routes that can reduce existing distances. Countries already have ongoing activities in the Arctic hope to have a stake in the commercial exploitation of natural resources present in the region.
  • The Arctic Council does not prohibit the commercial exploitation of resources in the Arctic. It only seeks to ensure that it is done in a sustainable manner without harming the interests of local populations and in conformity with the local environment.
  • Therefore, to stay relevant in the Arctic region, India should take advantage of the observer status it has earned in the Arctic Council and consider investing more in the Arctic.
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