Polity & Governance
- After stents, NPPA puts a price cap on knee implants
Issues related to Health & Education
- Madhyamik and Uchchtar Shiksha Kosh (MUSK)
- Cabinet approves new mechanism to speed up strategic disinvestment
- Union Cabinet approves Rs 9020 for Long Term Irrigation Fund
- Cabinet clears completion of North Koel Reservoir project in Jharkhand, Bihar
- MOUs signed for distribution of Energy Efficient appliances
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- India signs Global Environment Facility (GEF) Grant Agreement
- Scientists discover new tectonic plate – ‘Malpelo plate’
Bilateral & International Relations
- Cabinet approves MoU between India and Sweden on IPRs
Key Facts for Prelims
- Melbourne named ‘World’s Most Liveable City’
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Polity & Governance
After stents, NPPA puts a price cap on knee implants
After cardiac stents, the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) has capped the prices of orthopaedic knee implants.
Why price caps?
- Citing a World Health Organisation report, the NPPA order said osteoarthritis is likely to become the world’s fourth leading cause of disability by the year 2020.
- The NPPA order said there are as many as 20 million patients who require arthroplasty, out of which only about 100,000 manage to afford it every year.
- It is noticed that orthopedic-knee implants are having unjustified, unreasonable and irrational high trade margins leading to their exorbitant prices ranging from 67% to as high as 449% orthopaedic knee implants, which affects the out of pocket expenses of patients and lakhs of patients are not able to pay for arthroplasty procedures because of these exorbitant prices and are suffering in pain.
- Preventing such a scenario is essential in individual as well as national interest.
Implications of the move:
- The decision is considered as a major relief to patients suffering from knee problems.
- It will help check unethical profiteering in the implant surgery.
- It will benefit around 1.5 to 2 crore knee patients and result in savings of Rs 1,500 crore annually to patients requiring surgery.
What exactly the price caps?
Four types of knee implants:
- Cobalt chromium knee implant (80 per cent market share),
- Implants with special metals like titanium or oxidised zirconium
- Highly-flexible implants
- Revision implants (where a patient goes for a second surgery)
Revision of above types of implants is given below:
- In February 2017, the NPPA brought cardiac stents under price control to make them more affordable to patients. Stents are wire-like meshes that are used to remove blocks, largely in the heart.
About National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA):
- NPPA is an organization of the Government of India which was established, inter alia, to fix/ revise the prices of controlled bulk drugs and formulations and to enforce prices and availability of the medicines in the country, under the Drugs (Prices Control) Order, 1995.
- The organization is also entrusted with the task of recovering amounts overcharged by manufacturers for the controlled drugs from the consumers.
- It also monitors the prices of decontrolled drugs in order to keep them at reasonable levels.
Functions of National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority:
- To implement and enforce the provisions of the Drugs (Prices Control) Order in accordance with the powers delegated to it.
- To deal with all legal matters arising out of the decisions of the Authority.
- To monitor the availability of drugs, identify shortages, if any, and to take remedial steps.
- To collect/ maintain data on production, exports and imports, market share of individual companies, profitability of companies etc., for bulk drugs and formulations.
- To undertake and/ or sponsor relevant studies in respect of pricing of drugs/ pharmaceuticals.
- To recruit/ appoint the officers and other staff members of the Authority, as per rules and procedures laid down by the Government.
- To render advice to the Central Government on changes/ revisions in the drug policy.
- To render assistance to the Central Government in the parliamentary matters relating to the drug pricing.
Issues related to Health & Education
Madhyamik and Uchchtar Shiksha Kosh (MUSK)
The Union Cabinet has accorded its approval for creation of a non-lapsable pool in the Public Account for secondary and higher education known as “Madhyamik and Uchchtar Shiksha Kosh” (MUSK).
- Under it, all proceeds of secondary and higher education cess will be credited and utilised for the government’s schemes in education sector.
About the MUSK:
- The fund will be administered and maintained by the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development.
- The MUSK will be maintained as a Reserve Fund in the non-interest bearing section of the Public Accounts of India.
- It will be operationalised as per the present arrangements under Prarambhik Shiksha Kosh (PSK) wherein the proceeds of cess are used for Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and Mid-Day Meal (MDM) Schemes.
- The funds arising from MUSK will be utilised for schemes in education sector, which will be available for benefit of students of secondary and higher education all over the country.
- The purpose of levying cess for secondary and higher education is to provide adequate resources for secondary and higher education.
- During the 10th Plan, an education cess of 2% on all central taxes was imposed to make available additional resources for basic education/elementary education to augment the existing budgetary resources.
- A need was felt to give a similar fillip to the effort of the Central Government in universalizing access to secondary education and expanding the reach of the higher education sector.
- Therefore, the Finance Minister, in his budget speech of 2007 proposed an additional cess of 1% on central taxes for secondary and higher education.
What is cess?
- A cess imposed by the central government is a tax on tax, levied by the government for a specific purpose.
Cabinet approves new mechanism to speed up strategic disinvestment
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved the proposal of the Department of Investment and public Asset Management (DIPAM) for strategic disinvestment.
Alternative Mechanism (AM)
- It will decide on the matters relating to terms and conditions of the sale from the stage of inviting of Express of Interests (Eols) till inviting of financial bid.
- It will consist of the Finance Minister, Minister for Road Transport & Highways and Minister of Administrative Department.
Core Group of Secretaries (CGD)
- It will enable CGD to take policy decisions with regard to procedural issues and consider deviations as necessary from time to time for effective implementation of decisions of CCEA.
What is strategic disinvestment?
- It means when a significant proportion of a Public Sector Unit’s (PSU) share and the management control goes to a private sector strategic partner.
- The move is generally undertaken to mobilize more funds however, it is also to enable better use of the resource and its more efficient allocation.
- It is different from the ordinary disinvestment in which management of PSU is retained with Government.
- Department of Investment and public Asset Management (DIPAM) is a nodal agency of the Union Ministry of Finance that has been authorised to advise the Union Government in the matters of the financial restructuring of PSUs and also for attracting investment through capital markets.
- The main vision of the agency is to promote people’s ownership of Central Public Sector Enterprises to share in their prosperity through disinvestment.
- It also aims to efficiently manage public investment in CPSEs in order to accelerate economic development and boost Government’s resources for higher expenditure.
Union Cabinet approves Rs 9020 for Long Term Irrigation Fund
The Union Cabinet gave its approval for raising Extra Budgetary Resources of up to Rs, 9,020 crore for Long Term Irrigation Fund (LTIF) during the financial year 2017-18.
About the Long Term Irrigation Fund (LTIF):
The Long Term Irrigation Fund, with an initial corpus of about Rs 20,000 crore, was announced in the Union Budget 2016-17 by the then Finance Minister.
- The fund will be instituted in NABARD as part of Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY).
- The LTIF will be for the implementation of Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme (AIBP) works of 99 ongoing prioritised irrigation projects along with their command area development (CAD) works under the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY).
- The loans from NABARD will be provided at 6% interest rate for a period of 15 years. The Water Users associations will be formed for participatory management of the projects.
- Corpus would be raised by way of budgetary resources and market borrowings to fund fast tracking of implementation of incomplete major & medium irrigation projects.
Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY) is a national mission to improve farm productivity and ensure better utilization of the resources in the country.
- It is implemented by Ministries of Agriculture, Water Resources and Rural Development.
- It seeks to amalgamate three major ongoing irrigation programmes of the Centre –
- The Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme of Ministry of Water Resources
- Integrated Watershed management programme of Ministry of Rural Development and Land Resources, and
- The farm water management component of National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture of the Department of Agriculture.
- The scheme would be implemented in ‘mission mode’, which means the district administration draws up their own irrigation plan with the help of district forest officers, lead bank officer and other departments. The state irrigation plan will be an amalgamation of all the district plans.
- The plan additionally calls for bringing ministries, offices, organizations, research and financial institutions occupied with creation and recycling of water under one platform. The goal is to open the doors for optimal water budgeting in all sectors.
Objectives of the PMKSY:
- The primary objectives of PMKSY are to attract investments in irrigation system at field level, develop and expand cultivable land under assured irrigation (Har Khet ko pani), enhance ranch water use in order to minimize wastage of water, enhance crop per drop by implementing water-saving technologies and precision irrigation.
Cabinet clears completion of North Koel Reservoir project in Jharkhand, Bihar
The Union Cabinet has given its approval to the proposal to complete the balance works of the North Koel Reservoir Project in Jharkhand and Bihar at an estimated expenditure of Rs.1622.27 crore to be incurred during three financial years from the start of the project.
- The Cabinet also approved storage of water in dam restricted at lower level than envisaged earlier to reduce the submergence and to protect Betla National Park and Palamau Tiger Reserve.
About North Koel Reservoir Project:
The project is situated on North Koel river which is a tributary of Sone river finally joining the river Ganga.
- The North Koel Reservoir is located in the most backward tribal areas in Palamau and Garhwa districts of Jharkhand State.
- The construction was originally started in the year 1972 and continued till 1993 when it was stopped by the Forest Department, Govt. of Bihar. Since then, the work on dam is at a standstill.
- The project aims to provide irrigation to 111,521 hectares of land annually in the most backward and drought prone areas of Palamu & Garhwa districts in Jharkhand and Aurangabad & Gaya districts in Bihar.
About North Koel River:
- North Koel River rises on Ranchi plateau in Jharkhand.
- It joins the Sone River (only right bank tributary of Ganga River) a few miles north-west of Haidarnagar.
- Its principal tributaries are the Auranga and the Amanat.
- It meanders through the northern part of Betla National Park.
MOUs signed for distribution of Energy Efficient appliances
Under the flagship Unnat Jeevan by Affordable LEDs and appliances for All (UJALA) scheme, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed for distribution of energy efficient appliances.
- The MoU has been signed between Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), under the Ministry of Power and Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) under the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MoPNG).
- According to the agreement, Oil Marketing Companies- IOCL, BPCL and HPCL will take up distribution of LED Bulbs, LED Tubelights and energy efficient Fans from select retail outlets across the country.
About the UJALA scheme:
UJALA is a flagship project of the Govt. of India where it wants every home in India to use LED bulbs so that the net power or energy consumption rate comes down and the carbon emission rates can also be checked.
- The scheme is being implemented by Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), a joint venture of PSUs under the Union Ministry of Power.
- The scheme is being monitored in a transparent manner through a national dashboard (www.delp.in).
- The scheme will not only help reduce consumers their electricity bills but also contribute to the energy security of India.
- The distribution of LED bulbs will happen through DISCOM offices, DISCOM bill collection centres, designated EESL kiosks, Weekly haat markets, etc.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
India signs Global Environment Facility (GEF) Grant Agreement
The Union Government has inked US $24.64 million Grant Agreement from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) of the World Bank for Ecosystem Service Improvement Project.
- The Project will be entirely financed by the World Bank out of its GEF Trust Fund.
About the Ecosystem Service Improvement Project:
- The objective of the Project is to strengthen the institutional capacity of the Community Organisations and Departments of Forestry to enhance forest ecosystem services and improve the livelihoods of forest dependent communities in Central Indian Highlands.
- The project will be implemented by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh through Indian Council of Forestry Research & Education (ICFRE) under the National Green India Mission (GIM).
Mitigation measures under the project:
- Using only approved and safe bio-control agents and following release and documentation protocols.
- Avoiding using general bio-control agents; use host-specific ones for targeted species.
- Promoting use of bio-fertilizers and bio-pesticides.
- Ensuring that legitimate users are not denied access to resources as a result of declaration.
- Establishing village level participatory monitoring protocols and social audit arrangements for the project.
- Creating village level household beneficiary lists and identifying the most poor, farthest, marginal, and backward beneficiaries.
- Ensuring convergence for alternative employment or income for landless livestock owners during common property resources (CPR) restoration.
About Global Environment Facility (GEF):
The Global Environment Facility (GEF) was established in October 1991 as a $1 billion pilot program in the World Bank to assist in the protection of the global environment and to promote environmental sustainable development.
- Since then, the GEF has provided $14.5 billion in grants and mobilized $75.4 billion in additional financing for almost 4,000 projects.
- The GEF has become an international partnership of 183 countries, international institutions, civil society organizations, and private sector to address global environmental issues.
- The GEF directly support actions to combat major environmental issues such as climate change, loss of biodiversity, polluted international waters, land degradation and desertification, and persistent organic pollutants, as well as stimulate green growth.
- In 1994, at the Rio Earth Summit, the GEF was restructured and moved out of the World Bank system to become a permanent, separate institution.
- The decision to make the GEF an independent organization enhanced the involvement of developing countries in the decision-making process and in implementation of the projects.
- Since 1994, however, the World Bank has served as the Trustee of the GEF Trust Fund and provided administrative services.
About National Mission for Green India:
- National Mission for Green India is one of the eight key Missions outlined under National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC).
- It aims at protecting, enhancing and restoring India’s decreasing forest cover and responding to climate change by a combination of mitigation and adaptation measures.
- The mission acknowledges the influence forests on environmental amelioration through climate change mitigation, water security, food security, biodiversity conservation and livelihood security of forest-dependent communities.
- It hinges on decentralized participatory approach by involving grass root level communities and organizations in decision making, planning, implementation and monitoring.
Scientists discover new tectonic plate – ‘Malpelo plate’
Researchers from US have found new tectonic mircoplate off Ecuador’s coast in the eastern Pacific Ocean.
- It has been named Malpelo plate, after a Colombian island and an oceanic ridge it contains.
- It is overall 57th tectonic mircoplate to be discovered so far and the first in nearly a decade.
What are Microplates?
- Microplates are tectonic plates with an area less than 1 million km2.
About Malpelo plate:
- Malpelo microplate is located west of the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador. It is wedged in-between the Nazca, Cocos, and Caribbean minor plates. It is linked to a nearby oceanic ridge along the Ring of Fire.
- Earlier it was that assumed most of the region east of the known Panama transform fault was part of the Nazca plate. But recent study showed that it is different tectonic plate moving independently in a different direction.
- Evidence for the Malpelo plate came with the researchers’ identification of a diffuse plate boundary that runs from the Panama Transform Fault eastward to where it intersects a deep oceanic trench just offshore of Ecuador and Colombia.
Bilateral & International Relations
Cabinet approves MoU between India and Sweden on IPRs
The Union Cabinet has approved Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Sweden on cooperation in the field of Intellectual Property (IPRs).
- The MoU establishes wide ranging and flexible mechanism, allowing both countries to work together and exchange best practices on training programs and technical exchanges to raise awareness and protect IPRs.
Key Features of MoU:
- It facilitates establishment of a Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) with members from both countries.
- It aims to enhance cooperation between both countries for exchange of best practices, experiences and knowledge on IP awareness among the public, businesses and educational institutions.
- It will also facilitate exchange and dissemination of best practices, experiences and knowledge on IP with industry, universities, R&D organisations and SMEs by organising programs and events.
- It also seeks to enhance collaboration in training programmes, exchange of experts, technical exchanges and outreach activities.
- It will also facilitate exchange of information and best practices for disposal of applications for patents, trademarks, copyrights, industrial designs and Geographical Indications as also the protection, enforcement and use of IP rights.
- It will enhance cooperation for understanding protection of traditional knowledge and the exchange of best practices, including traditional knowledge related databases.
- It will also facilitate exchange of information and best practices regarding IP law infringements in digital environment, especially regarding Copyright issues.
Significance of the MoU:
- It will enable India to exchange experiences in the innovation and IP ecosystems that will substantially benefit entrepreneurs, businesses and investors on both sides.
- By facilitating exchange of best practices between both countries, it will lead to improved protection and awareness about India’s range of Intellectual creations.
- It will be will further the objectives of National IPR Policy, 2016 and aid in India’s journey towards becoming a major player in global Innovation.
Location of Sweden:
Key Facts for Prelims
Melbourne named ‘World’s Most Liveable City’
According to the 2017 Global Liveability Report compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), Australian city Melbourne is the most liveable city in the world.
About the report:
- The EIU’s Liveability Ranking assesses living conditions in 140 cities across the globe by assigning a rating across five broad categories.
- The rating quantifies the challenges that might be presented to an individual’s lifestyle in any given location, and allows for direct comparison between locations.
- Every city is assigned a rating of relative comfort for over 30 qualitative and quantitative factors across five broad categories – stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education and infrastructure.
Highlights of the report:
- No Indian city was ranked in the top ten or bottom ten.
- The rankings of top five cities remain unchanged as compare to previous year.
- Top five most liveable cities include Melbourne, Vienna, Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary.
- The survey lists Damascus (140th) as the least liveable city.