22 November 2020
- Parliamentary panel bats for laws to counter bioterrorism (Disaster Management)
- India to double oil refining capacity in five years, says PM (Indian Economy)
- Odisha tribe sees rise in migration- PVTGs in India (Polity & Governance)
- Paddy procurement goes up by 18%- Flaws in Open-ended Procurement Policy (Indian Economy)
- How kala-azar was eliminated from a highly endemic district in Bihar (Science & technology)
- Answers for Self-Assessment Test and Question for the Day
UPSC Current Affairs: Parliamentary panel bats for laws to counter bio terrorism | Page 01
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: General Science | Mains – GS Paper III – Disaster Management
Sub Theme: Bio-Terrorism | Biological Weapons | UPSC
First Article: Parliamentary panel bats for laws to counter bio-terrorism
Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health has given a report, with the title “The Outbreak of Pandemic COVID-19 And its Management”, to the Rajya Sabha Chairman on Saturday.
Highlights of the report
- Formulating effective laws to counter bio-terrorism is one of the important lessons to be learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Due to “poor contact tracing and slow testing” there was alarming rise of positive cases in the initial months.
- Deaths due to Covid-19 may have occurred due to a lack of a sustainable pricing model.
- Lack of specific guidelines in treating Covid-19 patients and inadequate amount of hospital beds led to private hospitals charging high fees.
- Strengthening disease surveillance, including at animal-human interface, training and capacity building for management of public health emergencies arising from use of bio-weapons and strengthening research and surveillance activities related to development of diagnostics, vaccines and drugs.
- Health Ministry should engage with agencies and actively participate in ongoing international treaties.
- The report did not explicitly state that the COVID-19 virus was a bio-weapon.
Bioterrorism - It is the intentional release of viruses, bacteria, or other germs that can sicken or kill people, livestock or crops. Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is the nodal ministry for Bioterrorism and partners with Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in its management.
Biological Weapons – use microorganisms and natural toxins to produce disease in humans, animals, or plants.
- These agents can be deployed with a delivery system,such as a missile or airborne dispersion over a major population region.
- Bacillus anthracis,the bacteria that causes anthrax, is one of the most likely agents to be used in a biological attack.
- Pathogens or pestscan be used as anticrop agents to hamper the food security.
It is a substantial threat because small amounts of biotic agents can be effortlessly hidden, transported and discharged into vulnerable populations.
Strengthening the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention
- TheBiological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) of 1972 prohibits signatory nations to develop, produce, stockpile or otherwise, acquire or retain:
- Microbial or other biological agentsor toxins whatever their origin or method of production, of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes.
- Weapons, equipment or means of delivery designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict.
- However, there is no exact authentication method that can ensure compliance with the BTWC. Therefore, efforts must be made to strengthen the BTWC so that it helps to uncover and successfully prevent biological weapons programs.
- India ratified and pledged to abide by its obligations in 2015.
Intelligence Sharing & Rapid Detection
Rapid detection and surveillance are important for an efficient response to a bioterror strike. So Global intelligence agencies should operate together and share credible intelligence.
- Upgrading and installing biodefense systems in major urban conglomerates to protect against deadly disease outbreaks initiated by bioterrorism.
- Coaching first responders on how to deal with a biological weapons attack.
- Refining diagnostic laboratory capability and epidemiological capabilities.
- Developing and stockpiling vaccines and antimicrobial medicines that can be used to defend the people against infections triggered by biological weapons.
Summary of Action Points of NDMA on Biological Disaster
Capacity development – Facilities and amenities must be developed to cover all issues of environmental management like water supply, personal hygiene, and vector control, burial/disposal of the dead and the risk of occurrence of zoonotic disorders.
Pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical interventions and biosafety/biosecurity measures – Tools must be developed to monitor the status of available pharmaceutical interventions including antibiotics, chemotherapeutics and anti-virals, and listing of essential drugs that may be required to manage biological emergencies.
Establishment of command, control and coordination functions – A well-orchestrated medical response to biological disasters will only be possible by having a command and control function at the district level with the district collector as commander.
Capacity development of human resource, training and education, community, standardised documentation procedures and R&D – The roles of various health and non-health professionals at various levels in the management of a biological crisis must be defined. Control rooms to support the field responders should be set up. These professionals must be trained through refresher courses to fill the prevailing gaps.
Development of critical infrastructure for management of biological emergencies – The development of a laboratory network including national/state level referral laboratories, and district level diagnostic laboratories with medical colleges to confirm diagnosis under a single integrated framework. On a similar basis, a chain of public health laboratories must also be developed and networked. The critical infrastructure must also be supported by biomonitoring techniques based on advanced molecular and biochemical techniques.
A properly functioning epidemiological mechanism must be used to prepare an action plan for the management of avian flu, and similar incidences to effectively combat the inherent risks. Various international best practices must be tested and incorporated in the DM plans by the nodal and line ministries to prevent the spread of biological disasters across international boundaries.
Preparedness for biological containment of microbial agents – SOPs for biosafety and biosecurity must be developed by the respective laboratories in accordance with the National Code of Practice for Biosecurity and Biosafety.
Classification of microorganisms and biologics - The scheme for risk-based classification of microorganisms is intended to provide a method for defining the minimal safety conditions that are necessary when using these agents.
Risk and vulnerability assessment of livestock - The various risks posed to livestock during natural disasters, i.e., spread of infectious diseases, fodder poisoning, TADs, various types of wars including conventional wars, BW or BT must be analysed to develop a comprehensive mitigation strategy.
Capacity development: management of livestock – This includes the development of infrastructure for disposal of carcasses, containment of epidemics; temporary shelters, organised rehabilitation package for livestock livelihood, awareness programmes and preparedness for emergency field and laboratory veterinary services.
Establishment of legislative and regulatory framework and early detection facilities based on risk management practices
Preparedness for management of agroterrorism activities – The preparedness measures include provisions for emergency control and treatment, development of national standards on phyto-sanitary measures and other related activities.
Development of an ‘all hazard’ implementation strategy – There is need for development of a action plan by the nodal ministry, measures to implement and coordinate various activities at the national level, and institutional framework and coordination at the state/district levels. Adequate strategy must be evolved to develop linkages and state support systems. Necessary financial arrangements must be made for implementation of all the plans developed at the district/state/national levels.
UPSC Current Affairs:India to double oil refining capacity in 5 years| Page 10
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Economy | Mains – GS Paper III – Economy, Infrastructure, Energy
Sub Theme: Oil-refining | Energy | Renewable Energy| PM-KUSUM | UPSC
The Government of India has set a target to set up 175 GW of Renewable energy by 2022. However, wind and solar power capacity additions have been far less than satisfactory and hardly on the path to meeting the targets. The Reasons for slowdown in Renewable Energy Addition can be seen as given below:
- Sub-categories of renewable energy such as rooftop solar, solar heating etc. have not received adequate focus.
- Unviable projects due to lower tariffs
- Weak financial position of DISCOMs
- Increased competition is making renewable energy less financially rewarding
- Withdrawal of incentives such as Viability Gap Funding, Accelerated depreciation etc.
- Lack of domestic manufacturing of solar PVs and wind turbines.
- Increased custom duties on solar panels
- Poor transmission infrastructure
- States not honoring PPAs and Renewable Energy Contracts
Renewable Energy sources are an excellent way to fulfil our developmental needs by balancing the requirements to deal with climate change. Hence, new policies such as Ultra Mega Renewable Energy Power Parks (UMREPP), One world one sun one grid, International Solar Alliance, Hybrid solar-wind policy need to be effectively implemented.
UPSC Current Affairs:Odisha tribe sees rise in migration| Page 08
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Polity and Governance | Mains – GS Paper II – Issue related to vulnerable sections
Sub Theme: PVTGS | ST | XAXA Committee | UPSC
3rd Article: PVTGs
- Perched at a height of 3,500ft above sea level in the hilly Malkangiri district of Odisha, this village is difficult to access and so are its inhabitants — the Bondas, a particularly vulnerable tribal group, known for their secluded lives away from the mainstream.
- As we all know some tribal groups have some specific features such as dependency on hunting, gathering for food, having pre-agriculture level of technology, zero or negative growth of population and extremely low level of literacy. These groups are called Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups.
UPSC has asked a question on PVTGs in 2019
Consider the following statements about Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) in India:
- PVTGs reside in 18 States and one Union Territory.
- A stagnant or declining population is one of the criteria for determining PVTG status.
- There are 95 PVTGs officially notified in the country so far.
- Irular and Konda Reddi tribes are included in the list of PVTGs.
Which of the statements given above are correct?
(a) 1, 2 and 3
(b) 2, 3 and 4
(c) 1, 2 and 4
(d) 1, 3 and 4
So in this regard we will
- Understand the first the ST concept
- Discuss Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs)’ and the criterion for identification as such
- See their distribution
- Discuss the main problems faced by them
Before going into the Details of PVTG’s let us first understand the Scheduled Tribes
- The Constitution, as per Article 342, provided for the listing of these groups in the Schedule so that certain administrative and political concessions could be extended to them. Thus, a distinction was drawn in the form of tribe as a social and cultural entity and tribe as a politico-administrative category. However, there were groups and communities who belonged linguistically, socially and culturally to the same community but found themselves listed in some States of the Indian Union but not in other, often neighbouring, States. Similarly within the State, the same community may have found itself listed in some regions but not in others.
- The criteria presently followed for specification of a community as a Scheduled Tribe are : (i) indications of primitive traits, (ii) distinctive culture, (iii) geographical isolation, (iv) shyness of contact with the community at large, and (v) backwardness. However, these criteria are not spelt out in the Constitution.
About ‘Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs)’:
- PVTGs are more vulnerable among the tribal groups.
- They have declining or stagnant population, low level of literacy, pre-agricultural level of technology and are economically backward.
- They generally inhabit remote localities having poor infrastructure and administrative support.
Need for identification
- PVTGs are more vulnerable among the tribal groups. Due to this factor, more developed and assertive tribal groups take a major chunk of the tribal development funds, because of which PVTGs need more funds directed for their development.
- In this context, in 1975, the Government of India initiated to identify the most vulnerable tribal groups as a separate category called PVTGs and declared 52 such groups, while in 1993 an additional 23 groups were added to the category, making it a total of 75 PVTGs out of 705 Scheduled Tribes, spread over 17 states and one Union Territory (UT), in the country (2011 census)
The criteria followed for determination of PVTGs are as under:
- A pre-agriculture level of technology.
- A stagnant or declining population.
- Extremely low literacy.
- A subsistence level of economy.
- The five broad regional groupings of tribes: Himalayan Region (a) North-eastern Himalayan region, (b) Central Himalayan region, and (c) North-Western Himalayan region), Middle Region (Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh where more than 55 per cent tribal people of India live), Western Region (Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Dadra and Nagar Haveli), Southern region (Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala), Island Region (Andaman and Nicobar in the Bay of Bengal and Lakshadweep in the Arabian Sea).
- Northeast is often viewed as a singular and homogeneous entity, the region is highly diverse with over 200 tribes and sub-tribes, each of which have their own language, culture and political structures.
- Northeast differs from tribes in other parts of India, particularly in terms of their historical relationship with the colonial and Indian State.
- The Islands are administered as a Union Territory under the Central Government and are home to some of the smallest tribes such as the Great Andamanese, Onge, Jarawa and the Sentinelese.
Problems of PVTGs
- Social conditions and declining population:
- The level of inequalities in social and economic conditions is very high amongst PVTGs.
- Their problems are also very different from group to group.
- The growth of PVTGs' population is either stagnating or declining, compared to the general population growth, particularly in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands where the declining rate is very high.
- PVTGs depend on various livelihoods such as food gathering, Non-Timber Forest Produce (NTFP), hunting, livestock rearing, shifting cultivation and artisan works.
- Most of their livelihoods depend on the forest. But due to the shrinking forests, environmental changes and new forest conservation policies, their NTFP collection is getting hampered. Because of the lack of awareness about the value of NTFP produce, PVTGs have been exploited by the middlemen.
- Health and Education conditions
- The health status of PVTGs is in an awful condition because of multiple factors like poverty, illiteracy, lack of safe drinking water, bad sanitary conditions, difficult terrain, malnutrition, poor maternal and child health services, unavailability of health and nutritional services, superstition and deforestation.
- The diseases like anaemia, upper respiratory problem, malaria; gastro-intestinal disorders like acute diarrhoea, Intestinal protozoan; micronutrient deficiency and skin infection diseases are common among PVTGs.
- The condition of education is also very poor, with an average literacy rate of 10% to 44% in PVTGs
UPSC Current Affairs:Paddy procurement goes up by 18% Flaws in open-ended procurement policy | Page 01
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Economy | Mains – GS Paper III – Agriculture
Sub Theme: MSP | Open ended Procurement policy | UPSC
Flaws in the Open-ended Procurement Policy
Presently, Government is following open-ended procurement policy to offer fair and remunerative prices to farmers and prevent them from distress sale. However, apart from making food grain management unsustainable, this policy has neither benefitted farmers nor agriculture.
Presently, there is no limit on procurement of food grains such as Rice and Wheat leading to higher procurement. For instance, Food grain stock of Rice and Wheat (65 MT) is almost 110% more than buffer stock requirements (30 MT).
- Higher economic cost for FCI (Rs 50,000 crores) leading to higher debt burden.
- Artificial scarcity of food grains in open market leading to increase in prices.
- Higher emphasis on procurement of water-intensive crops such as Rice and Wheat is adversely affecting agriculture- skewed cropping pattern, higher water usage, soil erosion, lack of diversification
Hence, as recommended by CACP, open-ended procurement has to be replaced by closed-ended procurement wherein FCI should impose limits on procurement. Adoption of such a policy should also be accompanied by DBT to compensate the farmers if they sell food grains in market below MSP.
UPSC Current Affairs: How kala-azar was eliminated from a highly endemic district in Bihar
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Disease
Sub Theme: Vector Borne disease | Kala Azar | UPSC
- Kala Azar or Visceral Leishmaniasis is one of the 6 major vector-borne diseases of India.
- Major vector borne-diseases in India include
- Filariasis (Elephantiasis)
- Japanese Encephalitis
- Leishmaniasis (Kala Azar)
About Kala Azar
- It is a neglected tropical disease
- caused by a protozoa called Leishmania
- vector is female sandfly
- Ideal conditions include
- heavy annual rainfall
- mean humidity above 70%
- temperature range of 15–38 °C
- abundant vegetation, subsoil water and alluvial soil.
- It is commonly called Kala-azar in India and is fatal in over 95% of the cases.
- Symptoms include irregular fever, weight loss, anaemia and swelling of the spleen and liver.
Incidence in India
- India is home to 2/3rd of the total incidence of Kala Azar in the world
- It is endemic in to 4 states including
- Uttar Pradesh
- West Bengal.
- Bihar alone accounted for 70% of the disease
Strategies to eliminate
- India had set a target of elimination Kala-Azar by 2017. However the deadline was not met.
- Now the target is 2023 in line with the WHO target.
- The main strategy to eliminate Kalaazar is integrated vector management.
- The vector which is sandfly resides mostly in the wooden structure and thus poses a challenge of elimination, particularly in ‘kuccha houses’.
- Thus in addition to chemical treatment (spraying of DDT), control strategy include construction of pucca.