Polity & Governance
- NPPA notifies prices of 65 essential formulations
- Bill to amend Indian Forest Act tabled in Lok Sabha
- Gratuity law amendment Bill introduced in Lok Sabha
- Plea in SC seeks OBC status for farmers
Issues related to Health & Education
- Drug controller allows Indian firm to conduct phase 1 trials for Zika vaccine
Bilateral & International Relations
- Indian diaspora is largest in the world: World Migration Report 2018
- India plans to commence BBIN motor pact with Nepal, Bangladesh
Defence & Security Issues
- UP govt gives nod to UPCOCA Bill
Science & Technology
- Google X signs MOU with AP Govt to bring FSOC technology
Key Facts for Prelims
- International conference on advanced functional materials
- Skill Ministry, Maruti Suzuki sign pact to train youth
- Goa sets up task force to fight drug menace
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Polity & Governance
NPPA notifies prices of 65 essential formulations
National drug pricing regulator National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) has notified prices of 65 essential formulations, including those used for the treatment of diabetes, infections, pain and high blood pressure.
- It should be noted that National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) under the Union Ministry of Chemical and Fertiliser decides the ceiling prices of essential medicines of Schedule I under the Drugs (Prices Control) Order (DPCO) 2013.
- In respect of medicines that are not under price control, manufacturers are allowed to increase the maximum retail price by 10 percent annually.
What are Essential medicines?
- Essential medicines, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) are those drugs that satisfy the health care needs of the majority of the population; they should therefore be available at all times in adequate amounts and in appropriate dosage forms, at a price the community can afford.
How price of essential drugs is decided?
- The calculation for essential drugs is based on the simple average of all medicines in a particular therapeutic segment with sales of more than 1 percent.
About National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM):
- The NLEM is a dynamic list and reviewed every three years to include or exclude drugs as relevant to the newest medical innovations and aligned to the current market competition.
The Indian government recognized the national list of essential medicines as a key instrument in balanced healthcare delivery system which includes accessible, affordable and quality medicine at the primary, secondary, tertiary levels of healthcare.
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.
Bill to amend Indian Forest Act tabled in Lok Sabha
The Indian Forest (Amendment) Bill, 2017 has been tabled in the Lok Sabha.
- This bill would replace this ordinance issued last month by Union government to amend the Indian Forest Act, 1927 in this regard.
- Prior to issuance of the ordinance, the definition of tree in the Act included palm, bamboo, brushwood and cane.
Major objective of the amendment:
- A major objective of the amendment is to promote cultivation of bamboo in non-forest areas to achieve twin objectives of increasing the income of farmers and also increasing the green cover of the country.
- The Bill seeks to amend the Indian Forest Act to exempt felling and transportation of bamboo grown in non-forest areas from the state permit.
- The bill seeks to exempt bamboo grown in non-forest areas from definition of tree, thereby dispensing with the requirement of felling/transit permit for its economic use. However, bamboo grown in the forest areas shall continue to be governed by the provisions of Indian Forest Act, 1927.
Need for this amendment:
- Bamboo, though a grass, was legally defined as a tree under the Indian Forest Act, 1927. Under the Act, the felling and transit of bamboo grown on forest as well non-forest land attracted the provisions of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 (IFA, 1927). This was a major obstacle for bamboo cultivation by farmers on non-forest land.
- India has largest area under bamboo cultivation and is second richest in terms of bamboo genetic resources after China. India has 19% share of world’s area under bamboo cultivation, its market share in sector is only 6%. But, India’s massive potential was not utilised to increase country’s share in global bamboo market. As result, India is currently importing timber and allied products such as pulp, paper and furniture, etc.
Significance of Amendments
- The amendment and the resultant change in classification of bamboo grown in non-forest areas will usher in much needed and far-reaching reforms in the bamboo sector.
- While on the one hand, the legal and regulatory hardships being faced by farmers and private individuals will be removed and on the other hand, it will create a viable option for cultivation in 12.6 million hectares of cultivable waste land.
- It will enhance the agricultural income of farmers and tribals, especially in North-East and Central India.
- The amendment will encourage farmers and other individuals to take up plantation/ block plantation of suitable bamboo species on degraded land, in addition to plantation on agricultural land and other private lands under agroforestry mission.
- It will also enhance the supply of raw material to the traditional craftsmen of rural India, bamboo based/ paper & pulp industries, cottage industries, furniture making units, fabric making units, incense stick making units.
- It will promote major bamboo applications such as wood substitutes and composites like panels, flooring, furniture and bamboo blind. Moreover, it will also help industries such as those dealing with food products (bamboo shoots), constructions and housing, bamboo charcoal etc.
- The amendment will greatly aid the success of recently constituted National Bamboo Mission and is in also line with the objective of doubling the income of farmers, besides conservation and sustainable development.
- As per the assessment of United Nation’s Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), the bamboo business in the North-East Region alone has a potential of about Rs. 5000 crores in the next ten years. The amendment will therefore, help in harnessing this great potential and enhance the scope to increase the present level of market share and improve the economy of the entire country, particularly the North Eastern region.
Bamboo as a source of employment:
Bamboo grows abundantly in areas outside forests with an estimated growing stock of 10.20 million tonnes.
- About 20 million people are involved in bamboo related activities.
- One tonne of bamboo provides 350 man days of employment.
- An enabling environment for the cultivation of bamboo will help in creation of job opportunities in the country.
Bamboo’s ecological benefits:
- Bamboo has several ecological benefits such as soil-moisture conservation, landslide prevention and rehabilitation, conserving wildlife habitat, enhancing source of bio-mass, besides serving as a substitute for timber.
Gratuity law amendment Bill introduced in Lok Sabha
The Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill, 2017, has been introduced in the Lok Sabha.
Highlights of the bill:
- The Bill seeks to amend Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972.
- The amendment seeks to revise the ceiling for employees in private sectors too, considering inflation and wage increase.
- The Amendment will increase maximum limit of gratuity of employees, in Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs)/Autonomous Organizations under Government and in private sector who are not covered under Central Civil Services (Pension) Rules, 1972, at par with Central Government employees.
- The amendment would allow the central government to notify the maternity leave period for “female employees as deemed to be in continuous service in place of existing twelve weeks”.
The Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972
- The Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972 is an important social security legislation to wage earning population in industries, factories and establishments.
- It was enacted to provide social security to workmen after retirement, whether retirement is result of rules of superannuation, or physical disablement or impairment of vital body part.
- It applies to establishments employing 10 or more persons.
Plea in SC seeks OBC status for farmers
The Supreme Court has called for a response from the Centre, the Gujarat Government and the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) on a PIL praying that ‘farmers’ be included in the category of Other Backward Classes (OBC) irrespective of their caste and religion.
What the petition seeks?
- A PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking the inclusion of farmers who do not fall in the creamy layer in OBC category to ensure uplift for such farmers as constitutional rights considering them as occupational group.
- The petitioner said by citing apex court precedents in Indra Sawhney Vs. Union of India wherein it was categorically held that the benefit of reservation can be extended to OBCs, inter alia, based on quantifiable data.
- It also prayed for direction to the government to “prepare the survey report as well as the review report about the development and progress for inclusion and exclusion of classes who are getting the benefit of reservation under the provisions of law, as well as the method adopted for identification of backward classes”.
- It also called for laying down appropriate rules, guidelines for determination of the income limit which can be served as the basis for future exercise by the government.
Issues related to Health & Education
Drug controller allows Indian firm to conduct phase 1 trials for Zika vaccine
The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) has granted permission to Indian firm to conduct Phase-I clinical trials for a Zika vaccine.
About Zika virus:
- Zika virus had erupted on a large scale in mid-2015 in which more than 1.5 million people were infected, mostly in Brazil and other countries in South America.
- The virus is transmitted mainly by mosquitos. It causes mild, flu-like symptoms in most people, pregnant women run the risk of giving birth to babies with severe brain damage.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) had declared a global health emergency in February 2016, and declared it over in November 2016.
About Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI):
- DCGI under gamut of Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) is responsible for approval of licenses of specified categories of drugs such as blood and blood products, vaccines, IV fluids and sera in India.
Functions of DCGI:
- DCGI lays down standards and quality of manufacturing, selling, import and distribution of drugs in India.
- It acts as appellate authority in case of any dispute regarding quality of drugs.
- It prepares and maintains national reference standard.
- It brings about uniformity in enforcement of Drugs and Cosmetics Act.
- It trains Drug Analysts deputed by State Drug Control Laboratories and other Institutions.
Bilateral & International Relations
Indian diaspora is largest in the world: World Migration Report 2018
The International Organisation for Migration, the United Nations migration agency, has recently released the World Migration Report 2018.
Highlights of the World Migration Report 2018:
Definition of international migrants:
- The definition of international migrants used in the report is broad, taking into account anyone living in a country other their own and includes refugees and economic migrants, both those immigrating officially and those who do so “irregularly”.
- The numbers are not a count of people by national origin or ethnicity and, therefore, do not include children of migrants born in the countries their parents went to.
India related facts:
- The Indian diaspora is the world’s largest, with slightly more than 15.6 million people from India living overseas.
- The Indian diaspora constitutes 6% of the total number of international migrants (people living outside the country of their birth), which was estimated at 243 million in 2015.
- Because the country has the largest number of migrants abroad, India also receives the highest amount in remittances ($68.91 billion).
- The largest migration corridor is from India to UAE, where 3.5 million Indians were residing in 2015. Second is Saudi Arabia.
- The global migrants figure has risen by 10% over that recorded in 2010. In other words, out of global population of 7.3 billion, one of every 30 people was migrant in 2015. However, if computed as percentage of world’s population, the growth of diaspora has been largely static, from 3.2% in 2010 to 3.3% in 2015.
- After India, Mexico has the second largest diaspora.
- The United States remained the top destination for migrants in the world in 2015, with 46.6 million migrants moving to the US in that year. However, that was much before Donald Trump took over as president.
- Nearly half of all the international migrants worldwide in 2015 were born in Asia, primarily originating from India, China and other South Asian countries.
- The number of migrants to the Gulf has dipped drastically in recent years, owing to economic conditions and the protectionist measures adopted by these countries.
- A disturbing fact is that those under 18 years of age made up 51 percent of refugees in 2016.
About International Organisation for Migration (IOM):
IOM is an intergovernmental organization that provides services and advice concerning migration to governments and migrants, including refugees, internally displaced persons and migrant workers.
- IOM was established in 1951 as Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration (ICEM) to help resettle people displaced by World War II.
- In 1992, it was granted Permanent Observer status to UN General Assembly.
- Cooperation agreement between IOM and the UN was signed in 1996.
- IOM works in four broad areas of migration management: (a) Migration and development, (b) Facilitating migration, (c) Regulating migration and (d) Forced migration.
- It has 166 member states, a further 8 states holding observer status and offices in over 100 countries.
India plans to commence BBIN motor pact with Nepal, Bangladesh
Pending ratification from Bhutan, India plans to operationalise BBIN motor vehicle agreement (MVA) with Bangladesh and Nepal for seamless movement of passenger and cargo vehicles.
- India proposed a SAARC Motor Vehicle Agreement during the SAARC Summit in Kathmandu in November 2014.
- Due to objections from Pakistan, an agreement could not be reached. India instead pursued a similar motor vehicle agreement with the BBIN. The Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal Motor Vehicles Agreement was signed on 15 June 2015.
- Bhutan has not yet ratified the pact for its entry to come into force. However, Bhutan has given its consent for the BBIN MVA to enter into force amongst the other 3 countries i.e. Bangladesh, India and Nepal, who have already ratified it.
About the BBIN agreement:
- The Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicles Agreement (MVA) was signed at the BBIN transport ministers meeting in Thimpu, Bhutan, on 15 June 2015.
- It is aimed to facilitate cross border movement of both passengers and cargo vehicles.
- Protocols to implement the agreement are being negotiated by the four countries for passengers and cargo vehicles separately.
- The four South Asian nations had already signed the BBIN Agreement in June 2016. Despite ratifications by three partner countries, Bhutan’s Upper House has not yet ratified the deal, citing environmental as well as livelihood concerns.
Defence & Security Issues
UP govt gives nod to UPCOCA Bill
The Uttar Pradesh Government approved the draft of Uttar Pradesh Control of Organised Crime Act (UPCOCA) to fight land mafia, mining mafia and organised crime in the state.
- The Bill seeks to check to check organised and white-collar crime.
- The Bill has been framed on the lines of the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) by the committee which was set up to examine the draft bill.
Highlights of the UPCOCA Bill:
- Organised crime has been defined in detail in the (draft) bill. Kidnapping for ransom, illegal mining, manufacturing illicit liquor and its sale, acquiring contracts on the basis of muscle power, organised exploitation of forest produce, trade in wildlife, fake medicines, grabbing of government and private properties, and extortion will come under the ambit of the new law.
- The cases under the Bill will be filed only on the recommendations of the committee of Divisional Commissioner and Deputy Inspector General of Police.
- The permission of the Zonal Inspector General of Police will be required before filing of charge sheet after thorough inquiry.
- The properties acquired through organised crime will be taken over by the state government with the permission of the court during the course of investigation to forbid criminals from taking advantage of it.
- Special courts will be constituted for hearing of cases lodged under the provisions of this bill.
- A State-Level Organised Crime Control Authority has been proposed to monitor gangs involved in organised crime. The state level authority will be headed by the principal secretary of Home Affairs.
- There is also a provision to form district level organised crime control authorities, which will be led by district magistrates. They can recommend cases to the state level authority after thorough probe.
- It proposes the formation of a tribunal led by a retired High Court Judge for appealing against the Bill, and will have a principal secretary and an official of DGP rank as its members.
- Those found involved in organised crime will no longer be offered government protection and all white-collar criminals will be treated as such.
Science & Technology
Google X signs MOU with AP Govt to bring FSOC technology
Andhra Pradesh government has signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Alphabet InC.’s X (Google X) to bring Free Space Optical Communication (FSOC) technology to India.
About the project:
- The purpose of the FSOC project is to provide high quality & affordable digital services through internet under state government’s Fiber grid project.
- Instead of cables, the X internet network will use “Free Space Optical Communications, aka FSOC, technology”. This network will power internet in 13 districts through 2 thousand FSOC links.
- Under this MoU, X Labs will initially supply state government with 2000 FSOC links. X engineers experts on site in state will work with government personnel to identify and select suitable sites for deployment of t FSOC links.
Significance of this MoU:
- The partnership will offer a major boost to the state’s digital infrastructure and help overcome hindrances in terms of connecting isolated and difficult terrain, forest areas, river crossings, railway crossings, etc.
- Currently, less than 20% of people in Andhra Pradesh currently have access to broadband connectivity. By using FSOC technology, Andhra Pradesh will be able to use better bandwidth data to every house hold including houses in tribal belt.
- This association with X labs to implement FSOC in Andhra Pradesh is first in the world to provide wireless internet connection at higher speed of up to 20Gbps and to a distance of up to 20kms.
What is FSOC technology?
- FSFC is an optical communication technology that uses light to wirelessly transmit data to telecommunication and internet applications.
How FSOC technology works?
- FSOC links use beams of light to deliver high-speed, high-capacity connectivity over long distances, just like fiber optic cable, but without the cable.
- And because there’s no cable, this means there’s none of the time, cost, and hassle involved in digging trenches or stringing cable along poles.
- FSOC boxes can simply be placed kilometres apart on roofs or towers, with the signal beamed directly between the boxes to easily traverse common obstacles like rivers, roads and railways.
Scope of FSOC technology:
The technology remained outside the commercial applications for long owing to distance, speed, and efficiency related problems.
About Google X:
- Founded by Google in 2010 as Google X with an aim to work on finding solutions to the world’s large problems, this American semi-secret advanced technology lab facility became an independent Alphabet company and was renamed as X after Google was restructured into Alphabet in the year 2015.
- It has been working on several projects including driver-less car, product delivery through flying vehicles, Project Loon, Google glass among other technologies.
AP’s Fiber grid project:
- Andhra Pradesh Government’s Fiber grid is an ambitious project launched to give affordable high speed internet connection to every household in the state.
- Under the project, the state government has committed to connecting 12 million households and thousands of government organizations and businesses by 2019.
Key Facts for Prelims
International conference on advanced functional materials
- Rajiv Gandhi University of Knowledge Technologies (RGUKT) at Basar, Telangana is hosting the International conference on advanced functional materials in Telangana.
- The theme of the conference is ‘Applications of smart materials in the areas of nano-science and nano-technology, synthetic chemistry, sensors and computational materials science’.
- The conference aims to address the application aspect of the functional materials in areas of societal relevance, to discuss current scientific issues and to ignite scientific temper in young researchers.
Skill Ministry, Maruti Suzuki sign pact to train youth
- The Skill Development Ministry signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MoU) with Maruti Suzuki to impart training to youth and enhance their employment potential.
- The Flexi MoU aims to provide high employment potential trades related to automobile and manufacturing industry to youth under Skill India Mission.
- As per MoU, Maruti Suzuki in consultation with Director General of Training (DGT), under Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship will develop specific training modules as per need of the automobile industry.
Goa sets up task force to fight drug menace
- Goa government has formed an Anti-Narcotics Task Force, comprising members of various law enforcement agencies, to draw a comprehensive action plan to combat trafficking of drugs.
- Goa being a global tourist destination, lakhs of tourists, international as well as domestic, visit the state every year and are the major target of drug peddlers/dealers.