Polity & Governance
- MCI has failed, rejig it, says Parliament panel
- Constitution Bench to decide if MPs, MLAs can be disqualified upon framing of charges
- SC asks Centre to explore e-voting for defence personnel
- Cap profits, cut drug prices: Panel
Science & Technology
- Scientists use micro-organisms to produce ‘green’ plastic
Polity & Governance
MCI has failed, rejig it, says Parliament panel
The Parliamentary standing committee on health has called for a complete restructuring of the Medical Council of India (MCI), arguing that it has failed in its mandate as a regulator of medical education and profession.
- The panel recommended that the Act under which MCI was set up be scrapped and a new legislation be drafted at the earliest.
- The committee observed that the whole focus of the MCI has been on licensing of medical colleges and ethics was completely lost out in this process.
- The report also said, “If the medical education system has to be saved from total collapse, the government can no longer look the other way and has to exercise its constitutional authority and take decisive and exemplary action to restructure and revamp India’s regulatory system of medical education and practice.”
- The report noted that the MCI cannot be remedied according to the existing provisions of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956, which is certainly outdated.
- The committee also observed that “the much needed reforms will have to be led by the central government” as “the MCI can no longer be entrusted with that responsibility in view of its massive failures”.
- The committee recommended the immediate bifurcation of the two major areas – medical education and practice of ethical conduct by medical professionals – so that they receive full attention.
- The Medical Council of India (MCI) is the statutory bodyfor establishing uniform and high standards of medical education in India.
- The Medical Council of India was first established in 1934 under the Indian Medical Council Act, 1933. The Council was later reconstituted under the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 that replaced the earlier Act.
- The Council grants recognition of medical qualifications, gives accreditation to medical schools, grants registration to medical practitioners, and monitors medical practice in India.
[Ref: ToI, Wiki]
Constitution Bench to decide if MPs, MLAs can be disqualified upon framing of charges
The Supreme Court has decided to lay down the law on whether the country should even wait until a corrupt legislator is convicted to have him disqualified from Parliament or Assembly.
What’s the issue?
- A three-judge Bench has referred to a Constitution Bench the question whether a legislator facing criminal trial should be disqualified at the very stage of framing of charges against him by the trial court. Should his disqualification be kept in abeyance till he is convicted?
- The court has been tightening its grip on corruption in politics from 2013 when it first held that legislators, on conviction, would be immediately disqualified from holding membership of the House without being given three months’ time for appeal, as was the case before. Before this verdict, convicted lawmakers would file an appeal in the higher court and continue in the House.
- In March 2014, the Supreme Court passed an interim order that criminal trials, especially those dealing with corruption and heinous offences, involving elected representatives should be completed in a year. This order prevented lawmakers from sitting in the House as their cases dragged on.
Section 8 of RPA:
- Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act deals with disqualification on conviction for certain offences: A person convicted of any offence and sentenced to imprisonment for varying terms under Sections 8 (1) (2) and (3) shall be disqualified from the date of conviction and shall continue to be disqualified for a further period of six years since his release.
- In 2013, the court found it unconstitutional that convicted persons could be disqualified from contesting elections but could continue to be Members of Parliament and State Legislatures once elected.
SC asks Centre to explore e-voting for defence personnel
The Supreme Court has asked the Centre to explore ways, including e-voting facility, to enable defence and paramilitary personnel to cast their ballot.
- Right to vote is astatutory right granted to all citizens but many defence and paramilitary personnel posted in far-flung and border areas are not able to exercise it.
- The Court has directed the Centre to come out with concrete suggestions within three months on how to improve the existing system of postal ballot available with defence personnel and whether e-voting could be introduced to them.
Cap profits, cut drug prices: Panel
An inter-ministerial committee, which was set up to study steep hike in trade margins and suggest ways to increase affordability of expensive medicines and medical devices across the country, has submitted its report to the government.
- Among others, it has recommended capping of trade margins for costly drugs at 35% of MRP(maximum retail price). This move could significantly bring down prices of expensive medicines.
The Indian drug retail market is currently pegged at over Rs.1 lakh crore annually.
Highlights of the report:
- Though the report suggests capping trade margins on expensive drugs at 35% of MRP, it also recommended a different slab for lesser priced medicines. For products priced at Rs.2 per unit, the margin may be capped at 50%.
- While acknowledging that trade margins fall under the domain of industry, the report highlights “consumer protection” as an area where government interventions and regulations are required, mainly in sectors like drugs or pharmaceuticals, where consumer has little choice.
Need for capping:
- While medicines constitute around 60% of the total out-of-pocket expenditure incurred by individuals on healthcare, trade margins contribute to almost 20-25% of a medicine’s price.
- Experts say trade margins also create a huge disparity in prices of medicine brands available in the market. Pharmaceutical companies often use this window to push their brands through retailers as well as doctors.
Implication of capping:
- Once trade margins are regulated, medicine prices of different brands are likely to come at par largely.
Trade margins under previous price regime:
- Under the previous price regime, trade margins were capped at 16% and 8% for drug retailers and wholesalers, respectively.
- However, this was only on scheduled drugs, prices of which were directly capped and monitored by the government. On other drugs, retailers were allowed a margin of 20%, whereas wholesalers were entitled to a margin of 10%.
After new drug pricing policy came into place:
- However, since the new drug pricing policy came into place in 2013, there is no ceiling on the trade margin. Instead, the regulator National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) caps prices based on the average price of all medicines in a particular segment with more than 1% market share.
- It is estimated that this gap has allowed trade margins of up to 400-500% on certain medicines which are already exorbitantly priced.
- The government is now trying to narrow the trade margin gap and pass on the price benefit to consumers. After incorporating suggestions, the proposal will take the shape of a Cabinet note and a final decision will be taken after that.
Science & Technology
Scientists use micro-organisms to produce ‘green’ plastic
Korean researchers have developed a unique biorefinery system to create non-natural polymers from natural sources, allowing various plastics to be made in an environmentally-friendly and sustainable manner.
- Researchers have developed metabolically engineered Escherichia colistrains to synthesise non-natural, bio-medically important polymers including PLGA or poly (lactic-co-glycolic acid) – previously considered impossible to obtain from bio-based materials.
As climate change technology becomes more important, this research on the biological production of non-natural, high value polymers has a great impact on science and industry.
Biorefineries- an alternative to fossil fuels:
- In recent years, biorefineries which transform non-edible biomass into fuel, heat, power, chemicals and materials have received a great deal of attention as a sustainable alternative to decreasing the reliance on fossil fuels.
- Renewable non-food biomass can potentially replace petrochemical raw materials to produce energy sources, useful chemicals or products such as plastics, lubricants, paints, fertilisers and vitamin capsules.