Government Schemes & Policies
- Targets missed, Accessible India campaign’s deadline extended
- Regulator hikes prices of essential medicines
- Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABHY)
Issues related to Health & Education
- Breast Milk Banks
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- National Energy Conservation Day celebrated on 14th December 2019
- Species under increasing threat from climate change: IUCN
- India among top 10 countries with higher climate performance
- Heavy metals contaminating India’s rivers
Science & Technology
- US Army will fund rare earths plant for weapons development
Key Facts for Prelims
- Exercise ‘Iron Union 12’
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Government Schemes & Policies
Targets missed, Accessible India campaign’s deadline extended
The deadline for the government’s Accessible India campaign that aims at making public spaces friendly for persons with disabilities has been extended due to slow progress, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has informed the Lok Sabha.
About Accessible India Campaign (AIC)
- Accessible India Campaign (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan) is a nation-wide Campaign launched by Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD) to provide universal accessibility to persons with disabilities.
It has the following components:
- Built Environment Accessibility
- Transportation System Accessibility
- Information and Communication Eco-System Accessibility
Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995
This Act categorically provides for non-discrimination in transport, non-discrimination on the road and non-discrimination in built environment respectively.
Under this Act, the States are required to provide for –
- Ramps in public buildings;
- Adaptation of toilets for wheel chair users;
- Braille symbols and auditory signals in elevators or lifts;
- Ramps in hospitals, primary health centres and other medical care and rehabilitation institutions
Section 44 and 45 of the said Act cast responsibility on the States to take measures to make public transport accessible for PwDs and also make provision for auditory signals at red lights in public roads, curb cuts and slops in pavements, engraving on the surface at zebra crossings etc.
- India is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). Article 9 of UNCRPD casts an obligation on all the signatory governments to take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas.
Regulator hikes prices of essential medicines
To ensure supply of crucial medicines, National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) has allowed an increase in the maximum retail prices of 21 drugs currently under price control by as much as 50 %.
About the decision of NPPA
- This decision was taken as per the para 19 of DPCO (Drug Price Control Order) 2013, which empowers Government to fix the ceiling price or retail price of any drug.
- The decision applies formulations like the BCG vaccine for TB, vitamin C, several antibiotics (Most of these drugs are used as first line of treatment).
- This is the first time the NPPA is increasing prices in public interest to prevent patients opting for costlier alternatives in the face of shortage of these drugs.
- In July, NPPA was considering a proposal to increase prices of certain medicines under price control to offset potential shortages due to increasing prices of key ingredients used to make them.
- NPPA has been receiving applications for upward price revision under para 19 of DPCO, 2013, since last two years citing reasons like “increase in API (key ingredient) cost, increase in cost of production, exchange rates resulting in unviability in sustainable production and marketing of the drugs.
- Essential medicines are those that satisfy the priority health care needs of the population. They are selected with due regard to public health relevance, evidence on efficacy and safety, and comparative cost-effectiveness.
- The WHO Model Lists of Essential Medicines is updated every two years since 1977. The current versions are the 21st WHO Essential Medicines List (EML) and the 7th WHO Essential Medicines List for Children (EMLc) was updated in June 2019.
National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA)
- NPPA was constituted in 1997 under Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP), Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers as an independent Regulator for pricing of drugs and to ensure availability and accessibility of medicines at affordable prices.
- The NPPA regularly publishes lists of medicines and their maximum ceiling prices.
Drug Prices Control Order, 2013
- Drug Price Control Orders (DPCO) are issued by the Government, under Essential Commodities Act, 1955 to declare a ceiling price for essential and lifesaving medicines. The latest DPCO was issued in 2013 on the basis of National Pharmaceutical Pricing Policy, 2012.
- Under DPCO, NPPA monitor the price of medicine that are listed in National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM). Thus, NLEM forms the basis of deciding which medicines should come under price control via DPCO.
- With India still dependent on China for over 60 % of its API (active pharmaceutical ingredient) requirement, higher API costs for price-controlled medicines sometimes make production of these drugs unviable in India.
Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABHY)
Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABHY) is a Rs. 6,000 Crore Central Sector Scheme, for sustainable management of ground water resources with community participation.
- The scheme aims to improve ground water management in priority areas in the country through community participation. The priority areas are in Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. These States represent about 25% of the total number of overexploited, critical and semi-critical blocks in terms of ground water in India. They also cover two major types of groundwater systems found in India – alluvial and hard rock aquifers.
The Expected Outcome
- Render a focused community-based approach to tackle issues connected with groundwater depletion.
- Provide sustainable groundwater management through the convergence of current governmental schemes.
- Facilitate adoption of efficient water use practices that limit the use of water for irrigation.
- Augmentation of groundwater resources in targeted areas.
- The priority areas identified under the scheme fall in the states of Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
- These States represent about 25% of the total number of over-exploited, critical and semi-critical blocks in terms of ground water in India.
- They also cover two major types of groundwater systems found in India – alluvial and hard rock aquifers- and have varying degrees of institutional readiness and experience in groundwater management.
Implementation of the scheme:
- The funding pattern is 50:50 between Government of India and World Bank.
- Funds under the scheme will be provided to the states for strengthening the institutions responsible for ground water governance, as well as for encouraging community involvement for improving ground water management to foster behavioural changes that promote conservation and efficient use of water.
- The scheme will also facilitate convergence of ongoing Government schemes in the states by incentivizing their focussed implementation in identified priority areas.
Issues related to Health & Education
Breast Milk Banks
As per the “National Guidelines on Establishment of Lactation Management Centres in Public Health Facilities”, Breast Milk Banks in India are known as Comprehensive Lactation Management Centres (CLMC) and Lactation Management Unit (LMU), depending on the level of health facilities where these units are established.
What is a Human Milk Bank?
- A human milk bank is a centre to collect, screen, test, and store donor milk collected from healthy lactating mothers.
- In India, these centres are called Comprehensive Lactation Management Centres (CLMCs) and Lactation Management Unit (LMU), depending on the level of health facilities where these units are established. India has 57 CLMCs across different states.
Functions of a CLMC
- Supports breastfeeding by helping new mothers breastfeed and resolve their lactation issues.
- Helps mothers to express milk for their own babies and to donate excess milk to the CLMC.
- Tests, stores, and pasteurizes collected milk and feeds it to vulnerable babies who do not have access to their mothers milk due to unavoidable reasons.
Importance of breast feeding:
- The world’s first human milk bank was set up in Vienna, Austria in 1911. The first Asian country to set up a breast milk bank was India, in 1989 (Lokmanya Tilak Hospital, Mumbai).
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
National Energy Conservation Day celebrated on 14th December 2019
The National Energy Conservation Day is organized every year on 14th December every year by Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), under Ministry of Power, to showcase India’s achievements in energy efficiency and conservation.
- Ministry of Power through Bureau of Energy Efficiency is implementing various policies and schemes viz Perform, Achieve and Trade (PAT) Scheme, Standard and Labelling, Energy Conservation Building Codes and Demand Side Management. These programmes are helpful in achieving significant energy savings and also, in promotion of the efficient use of energy across society.
About National Energy Conservation Awards
- The National Energy Conservation Awards are presented to industry and other establishments every year on 14th December by the Ministry of Power.
- The Awards recognizes the energy efficiency achievements in 56 sub sectors such as thermal power stations, office and BPO buildings etc. along with State Designated Agencies and manufacturers of BEE Star labelled appliances and electricity distribution companies.
- In order to realize the sustainable development goals, India’s energy demand is expected to double between 2013 and 2030, to approximately 1500 million tons of oil equivalent.
Species under increasing threat from climate change: IUCN
Already facing the threat of habitat destruction, hundreds of plant and animal species are now under further pressure from manmade climate change, the IUCN said in its updated “Red List of Threatened Species”.
- IUCN added 1,840 new species to its catalogue of plants and animals that risk extinction.
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN):
- The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is an international organization working in the field of nature conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.
- It was established in October, 1948.
- As the first global environmental union, it brought together governments and civil society organisations with a shared goal to protect nature.
- IUCN also played a fundamental role in the creation of key international conventions, including the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (1971), the World Heritage Convention (1972), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, (1974) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (1992).
- In 1980, IUCN – in partnership with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) – published the World Conservation Strategy, a ground-breaking document which helped define the concept of ‘sustainable development’.
IUCN Red List:
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, also called IUCN Red List, is an assessment system for classifying the status of plants, animals, and other organisms threatened with extinction.
- Started in 1964, the IUCN Red List is a key indicator for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Aichi Biodiversity Targets.
- The IUCN Red List is often referred to as a ‘Barometer of Life.’ The IUCN Red List is used to inform decisions taken by Multilateral Environmental Agreements.
- It is often used as a guide to revise the annexes of some important international agreements, such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS).
- It uses a set of criteria to evaluate the extinction risk of thousands of species and subspecies.
Classification by the IUCN Red List:
- Extinct (EX)– beyond reasonable doubt that the species is no longer extant.
- Extinct in the wild (EW)– survives only in captivity, cultivation and/or outside native range, as presumed after exhaustive surveys.
- Critically endangered (CR)– in a particularly and extremely critical state.
- Endangered (EN)– very high risk of extinction in the wild, meets any of criteria A to E for Endangered.
- Vulnerable (VU)– meets one of the 5 red list criteria and thus considered to be at high risk of unnatural (human-caused) extinction without further human intervention.
- Near threatened (NT)– close to being at high risk of extinction in the near future.
- Least concern (LC)– unlikely to become extinct in the near future.
- Data deficient (DD)– a condition applied to species in which the amount of available data related to its risk of extinction is lacking in some way.
- Not evaluated (NE)– a category used to include any of the nearly 1.9 million species described by science but not assessed by the IUCN.
Criteria to assess the extinction risk:
- The rate of population decline
- The geographic range
- Whether the species already possesses a small population size
- Whether the species is very small or lives in a restricted area
- Whether the results of a quantitative analysis indicate a high probability of extinction in the wild
- More than 27,000 species are threatened with extinction in world in which amphibians are highest with 40% followed by conifers (34%), Reef corals (33%), Shark and rays (31%), Mammals (25%), Selected Crustaceans (27%) and Birds (14%).
India among top 10 countries with higher climate performance
India, for the first time, ranks among the top 10 in 2019 Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI).
About the index
- Published annually since 2005, CCPI is an independent monitoring tool of countries’ climate protection performance.
- It is published by the German environmental and development organisation Germanwatch to enhance transparency in international climate politics.
The ranking results are defined by a country’s aggregated performance in 14 indicators within the four categories:
- GHG Emissions (weighting 40%)
- Renewable Energy (weighting 20%)
- Energy Use (weighting 20%)
- Climate Policy (weighting 20%)
Highlights of CCPI 2020
- As none of the countries assessed is already on a path compatible with the Paris climate targets, the first three places of the ranking remain unoccupied.
- Sweden leads the ranking on rank 4, followed by Denmark (5) and Morocco (6).
- The bottom five are Iran (57), Korea (58), Chinese Taipei (59), Saudi Arabia (60) and the United States (61), rated low or very low across almost all categories.
- While only two G20 countries, UK (7th) and India (9th), are ranked in the ‘high’ category, eight G20 countries are remaining in the worst category of the index (‘very low’).
- China, the largest global emitter, once again slightly improves its ranking to 30th place (“medium”).
Overall Rank of India: 9th
Category wise rank
- GHG emissions (11th rank): High
- Renewable energy (26th rank): Medium
- Energy Use (9th rank): High
- Climate Policy (15th rank): High
The current levels of per capita emissions and energy use are still comparatively low and result in high ratings for the GHG Emissions and Energy Use category.
While India receives an overall medium rating in the Renewable Energy category, India’s 2030 renewable energy target is rated very high for its well-below-2°C compatibility.
However, despite an overall high rating for its Climate Policy performance, experts point out that the Indian government has yet to develop a roadmap for the phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies that would consequently reduce the country’s high dependence on coal.[Ref: First Post, The Hindu]
Heavy metals contaminating India’s rivers
Samples taken from two-thirds of the water quality stations spanning India’s major rivers showed contamination by one or more heavy metals, exceeding safe limits set by the Bureau of Indian Standards, as per a report by the Central Water Commission (CWC).
Highlights of the report
- Samples from only one-third of water quality stations were safe. The rest (65%) of the 442 sampled, were polluted by heavy metals.
- Iron emerged as the most common contaminant.
- Lead, cadmium, nickel, chromium and copper contamination were more common in non-monsoon periods while iron, lead, chromium and copper exceeded limits in monsoon periods most of the time.
- Arsenic and zinc are the two toxic metals whose concentration was always obtained within the limits throughout the study period.
- The main sources of heavy metal pollution are mining, milling, plating and surface finishing industries that discharge a variety of toxic metals into the environment.
About the study
A study 67 rivers for presence of heavy metals was carried out by the Central water commission from May 2014 to April 2018.
Metals in Drinking water
- The presence of metals in drinking water is to some extent unavoidable and certain metals, in trace amounts, required for good health. However, when present above safe limits, they are associated with a range of disorders.
- Long-term exposure to heavy metals may result in slowly progressing physical, muscular, and neurological degenerative processes that mimic Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis.
Science & Technology
US Army will fund rare earths plant for weapons development
The U.S. Army plans to fund construction of rare earths processing facilities, part of an urgent push by US to secure domestic supply of the minerals used to make military weapons and electronics.
- This will be the first financial investment by the US military into commercial-scale Rare Earths production since the Manhattan Project to build the first atomic bomb during World War II.
- The decision comes after China threatened to stop exporting Rare Earth materials to the US amid the ongoing trade war between the countries.
What are Rare Earth elements?
- Rare Earth Elements or Rare Earth Metals are a set of 17 chemical elements in the periodic table — (15 lanthanides + Scandium + Yttrium), which tend to occur in the same ore deposits as the lanthanides, and have similar chemical properties.
- One of the Rare Earths, promethium, is
- Rare Earth elements are important in technologies of consumer electronics, computers and networks, communications, healthcare, environmental mitigation and national defence among others.
- Scandium is used in televisions and fluorescent lamps, and yttrium is used in drugs to treat rheumatoid arthritis and cancer.
- Rare Earth elements are used in space shuttle components, jet engine turbines, and drones. Cerium, the most abundant Rare Earth element, is essential to NASA’s Space Shuttle Programme.
China and Rare Earth elements
- In China, the mining of Rare Earths began in the 1950s, but it remained a stagnant until the 1970s, when the one chinese chemist found a way to separate the Rare Earth elements.
- After the Cultural Revolution in China ended, China focussed on exploiting its natural resources.
- At present, China refines approximately 80%-90% of the world’s Rare Earths, thereby having substantial control over their supply.
Rare earths trade dispute
- The rare earths trade dispute was between China on one side and several countries led by the US on the other.
- China had implemented quotas on exporting rare earth elements since 2006. Dispute arose when the China reduced its export quotas by 40% in 2010, sending the rare earths prices in the markets outside China soaring.
- The US, EU and Japan argued that the restrictions were a violation of the WTO trade regulations, while China stated that the restrictions are aimed at resource conservation and environmental protection.
- China was also accused of unofficially banning of rare earths exports to Japan during a diplomatic standoff between the two countries.
- In 2012, US filed a case with the Dispute Settlement Body of the WTO. In 2014, the WTO ruled against China, which led China to drop the export quotas in 2015.
- The Manhattan Project was a research and development undertaking during World War II that produced the first nuclear weapons. It was led by the United States with the support of the United Kingdom and Canada.
Key Facts for Prelims
Exercise ‘Iron Union 12’
- Iron Union 12 is a joint military exercise between the ground forces of the UAE and the United States.
- The latest edition is being held in UAE.