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GS: 1


Society related issues:

Khap menace(The Hindu Opinion)

Context:

  • It is not the first time that the Supreme Court is impelled to remind khap panchayats and the society at large that they have no business interfering in the life choices of individuals regarding marriage and love.

Supreme Court’s latest observations:

  • The court’s latest observations are that khap panchayats should not act as though they are conscience-keepers of society.
  • And no one should interfere in relationships between adults came while it was hearing a writ petition seeking a ban on such community organisations and guidelines to put an end to “honour killings”.

Key concern:

  • It is a grave misfortune that parents and self-appointed guardians of society continue to use coercion and harassment, and even resort to murderous violence, as a means to enforce their exclusionary and feudal prejudices.
  • These khap organisations in north India seek to enforce age-old taboos such as the prohibition on sagothra marriages among Hindus.

Bill to prohibit interference in marriage alliances:

  • The Law Commission in 2012 prepared a draft bill to prohibit interference in marriage alliances.
  • Key provisions that seek to address the problem of khap panchayats in this draft say such informal groups would be treated as an ‘unlawful assembly’.
  • And decisions that amount to harassment, social boycott, discrimination or incitement to violence should be punishable with a minimum sentence.
  • Whether the solution is social transformation or legislative change, high-handed mediation or interference should brook no sympathy.

GS: 2


International relations:

Sushma takes part in Saudi festival (The Hindu)

Context:

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on 7th February participated in the national festival of Saudi Arabia and held bilateral discussions with the Saudi royals.

About the Festival:

  • Al Janadria is the national cultural festival of Saudi Arabia
  • The festival began in 1985 under the patronage of the ruling monarch
  • 2018 marks the 32nd edition of the festival
  •   It is organised every year by the Saudi National Guard
  • A primary goal of this festival is to highlight Saudi Arabia’s Islamic identity, display its national heritage and help preserve it for generations to come.
  • It also aims to acquaint its people with the cultures of other countries. For this purpose, every year the country nominates a “Guest of Honour” at its festival.
  • The festival has India as the ‘Guest of Honour’ country this year

Discussions with Saudi Arabia:

  • The invitation to India for this prestigious festival is a testament to the growing relationship between Saudi Arabia and India.
  • Wide range of bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest was discussed
  • External Affairs Minister of India also reaffirmed India’s support to peace in the region and called for collective efforts in fighting the menace of terrorism

Indian immigration conundrum (The Hindu Opinion)

Context:

  • The recent President Donald Trump harsh rhetoric on securing America’s borders, not only through the southern border wall with Mexico, but also stricter enforcement of controls over legal migration has created much disturbance among the Indian-Americans.

The issue:

  • Migration is the engine that powers the globally aspirational Indian of today.
  • Historically, Indians have always been a vibrant immigrant community on distant shores, consistently maintaining deep familial and professional ties across the world.
  • The President’s agenda called for a protest where a group of approximately 800 Indian-Americans gathered on Pennsylvania Avenue outside the White House.

Divergence in views of protesters:

  • The views of those protesters in Washington may represent the divergence between the needs of visa-holding “aliens”from India, and those of undocumented migrants to the U.S., an 11.4 million-strong population.

Undocumented workers:

  • Undocumented workers seek the unrestricted right to enroll in educational institutions, work, marry, and own property.
  • As well as access social security, health insurance, college tuition support, and other such welfare benefits that the federal government is required by law to provide to U.S. persons.

Non-immigrant workers:

  • On the other hand, non-immigrant workers are focussed on attaining a higher level of access to and integration into their adopted home.
  • They seek to convert their alien status into permanent resident or citizen status.

Conclusion:

  • These aspiring migrants, who consider themselves to be on the “merit” side of Mr. Trump’s immigration paradigm, also separate themselves from the “family-based migrants,” who seek to immigrate legally to the U.S. based on the status of close family members and not work-related qualifications.

Drama on the high seas, 30 years ago(The Hindu Opinion)

Context:

In 1988, India intervened in the political crisis of Maldives to prevent an attempted against the then president Gayoom

What was ‘Operation Cactus’?

  • 30 years ago, in 1988, an intervention by the Indian armed forces  which was codenamed ‘Operation Cactus’ had crushed an attempted coup on Maldives
  • The coup was against the then President Gayoom
  • The coup was carried out by Sri Lankan Tamil militants on behalf of the Maldivian businessman Abdullah Luthufi
  • On 3 November, 1988, the presidential palace was taken under siege and Luthufi installed himself in the president’s chair.
  • Indian Government  was called for help
  • The then Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi dispatched 1,600 troops to Maldives and soon order was restored in the country
  • India received international acclaim for its role in reinstalling Gayoom and bringing the island nation to stability.

Current Situation:

  • The current political crisis in Maldives was spurred by the Maldivian Supreme Court’s recent order directing the immediate release of nine opposition leaders from prison including exiled former president Mohammed Nasheed
  • The ruling may have allowed Nasheed, who was Maldives’ first democratically elected president, to challenge President Abdulla Yameen when he seeks re-election later this year.
  • Following the order, President Yameen declared state of emergency in Maldives
  • India has expressed concern over the recent political developments in the Maldives

Indian Constitution and Polity:

What’s wrong with one identity, asks SC(The Hindu)

Context:

  • Aadhaar becomes the sole record by which a person can establish his identity.
  • But questions have been raised on this theory of “one identity for one nation”.

The argument:

  • It has been argumented Government cannot reduce a citizen to just one identity, there is much more than Aadhaar.
  • Thus, a person’s identity as an Indian should not be dependent on whether he has got Aadhaar or not.
  • In reply, Justice Bhushan referred to Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act to justify the use of Aadhaar.
  • “Aadhaar can be used for other purposes. The Aadhaar Act does not confine the use of Aadhaar to it alone. Aadhaar can be used to establish a person’s identity under any other Act.”

GS: 3


Economy:

RBI holds rates on inflation risk(The Hindu)

Context:

  • The Reserve Bank of India’s monetary policy committee on Wednesday decided to maintain status quo on the policy repo rate as it saw inflationary pressure building up in the economy.

Key rates unchanged:

  • The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) was headed by RBI Governor Urjit Patel
  • The repo rate remains at 6.0%, the reverse repo at 5.75% and the bank rate at 6.25%.
  • The marginal standing facility (MSF) rate and the Bank Rate at 6.25 per cent.
  • The GVA (gross value added) growth for 2018-19 has been projected at 7.2 per cent .

RBI’s forecast:

  • The RBI projected retail inflation in the range of 5.1-5.6% for the first half of 2018-19.
  • The RBI pared its 2017-18 GVA growth estimate to 6.6%, and forecast that the pace would quicken to 7.2% in the next fiscal year.
  • The RBI has forecast consumer price index inflation to be in the 5.1-5.6 percent range during April-September 2018, and 4.5-4.6 per cent during October 2018-March 2019, with risks tilted to the upside.
  • RBI projected an inflation range of 5.1-5.6% in the first half of the next fiscal year.

Rationale behind this decision :

  • The RBI kept the rates unchanged because inflationary pressure building up in the economy.

Ujjwala Yojana to benefit eight crore women now (The Hindu)

Context:

  • The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the increase in the target for the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, meant to provide cooking-gas connections to rural women, to eight crore from the earlier five crore.
  • The deadline for achieving the target is 2020.
  • The Cabinet also approved an additional allocation for the scheme of Rs. 4,800 crore.

Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana and its benefits:

  • Providing LPG connections to BPL households will ensure universal coverage of cooking gas in the country, claims the government.
  •   It will empower women and protect their health.
  • It will reduce drudgery and the time spent on cooking.
  • It will also provide employment for rural youth in the supply chain of cooking gas

Other outcomes:

The meeting took a slew of decisions across sectors, including:

  • Increasing the minimum support price for copra.
  • Extending the Discovered Small Fields Policy to include more oil and gas fields.
  • Approving several bilateral agreements signed by India
  • Giving ex post facto approval to the changes made in the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Bill.

MSP for copra

  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has given its approval for increase in the minimum support price for fair average quality (FAQ) of ‘milling copra’ to Rs. 7,500 a quintal for 2018 season from Rs. 6,500 per quintal in 2017.

The formal-informal divide(The Hindu Opinion)

Context:

  • There is an investment slowdown in India, which is delaying a fully fledged recovery in the economy.
  • The fall is so severe that it has more than offset the government’s macroeconomic stimulus of increased public investments.

Reasons for the slowdown:

  • The private investments slowdown is statistically visible chiefly in the informal segment of the economy.
  • The sharpest pullback has been by the household sector, its investments are down 6.6 percentage points since the start of the slowdown.
  • There is negligible change in the investment behaviour of public and private finance corporations.
  • Public non-financial corporations reduced investments marginally.

The household sector:

  • Households can be producing or non-producing, in which case they are consuming households.
  • The 73rd round of the survey by the National Sample Survey Office had found about 6.34 crore unincorporated non-agricultural enterprises in the country.
  • A chunk of private investments is undertaken by these firms that often operate out of homes, with, typically, less than 10 workers.
  • The investments estimates (Gross Fixed Capital Formation) cover physical investments in plants, machinery and equipment, and dwellings and buildings, but not land.

Informal and formal economies:

  • The two largest investing segments in the economy, households and private non-financial corporations, correspond roughly to the informal and formal economies.
  • The formal-informal divide shows up also in savings.
  • When the government (Centre plus the States) mops up larger portions of what net savers can provide, corporates can still access capital, but the unincorporated are left without recourse.
  • Corporates can, and have, borrowed overseas and raised funds from the capital markets but the informal sector has not had the sophistication or resources required.

Measures to be taken:

  • The Economic Survey 2018  recommends urgent prioritisation of investment revival to arrest more lasting growth impacts, with policy focus on both big and small companies, creating a conducive environment for the smaller industries to prosper and invest.
  • Urgent fiscal deficit reduction, quick clean-up of the bad loans mess, and restoration of banks’ health are more likely to revive private investments.

In inflation’s shadow(The Hindu Opinion)

Context:

The RBI has stressed the need for vigilance on price stability amid inflationary risks

What has happened?

  •  RBI has held the policy repo rate at 6% citing risks of inflation.
  • In December, The RBI had made a projection for inflation in the range of 4.3-4.7% in the six months through March 2018.
  • With pump prices of petrol and diesel having risen sharply in January, the RBI has now been forced to raise its estimate for retail price gains in the fourth quarter to 5.1%.

Inflation scenario:

The inflation scenario has been getting more worrying. These include the staggered impact of:

  • HRA increases by various State governments that may induce second order effects on prices;
  • the pick-up in global growth, a factor the RBI also cites as a positive for the economy,
  • push up crude oil and commodity prices worldwide;
  • the Budget’s proposed changes to the minimum support price norms for crops as well as the proposals to increase customs duty on a range of goods; and
  • the fiscal slippage, which could not only fan inflation but also risks increasing borrowing costs

Science and Technology:

India successfully test-fires nuclear capable Prithvi-II(The Hindu)

Context:

  • India successfully test-fires its indigenously developed nuclear capable Prithvi-II missile as part of a user trial by the Army from a test range in Odisha

About Prithvi-II:

  • It was the surface- to-surface missile, with a strike range of 350 km.
  • It was carried out from a mobile launcher from launch complex-3 of the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur.
  • Prithvi-II is capable of carrying 500-1,000 kilogram of warheads and is thrusted by liquid propulsion twin engines.
  • The missile uses advanced inertial guidance system with manoeuvring trajectory to hit its target.
  • The entire launch activities were carried out by the specially formed Strategic Force Command (SFC) of the Army and monitored by the scientists of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) as part of training exercise.

Biologics, patents and drug prices (The Hindu Opinion)

Context:

  • The global sales of the world’s best-selling prescription drug, Humira, continue to grow even after the expiry of the patent over its main ingredient, Adalimumab, a biologic used for the treatment of arthritis.

Background:

  • By 2020, AbbVie Inc, makers of Humira, expects its sales to touch $21 billion — a figure that will surpass India’s pharmaceutical exports for that year.
  • In 2015 faced with imminent expiry of the patent for Humira’s main ingredient, AbbVi reassured investors that  “Broad U.S. Humira Patent Estate” a list of 75 secondary patents in the U.S. for new indications, new methods of treatment, new formulations, and the like  would take care of the problem.

The issue:

  • Patents offer their owners market exclusivity for a limited period of time.
  • For medicines, this exclusivity should last as long as the primary patent which relates to the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) of the medicine which is in effect, typically 20 years.
  • The end of patent exclusivity is referred to as a patent cliff, because drug prices fall steeply afterwards — by as much as 80% owing to generic competition.
  • But the threat of this fall in profits drives pharmaceutical companies to find new ways to postpone their exclusivity by filing secondary patents for derivatives and variants of the API.
  • The secondary patents prop up before the expiry of a primary patent thereby stretching the exclusivity beyond 20 years, a practice that is called “evergreening”.

Secondary patents:

  • The Humira patent estate now comprises secondary patents.
  • Over the years, AbbVie has increased the price of Humira in the U.S. by 100%, while steadily filing a large number of secondary patents.
  • India, however, does not, which means that while Humira costs $1,300 (Rs. 85,000) in the U.S., the same treatment costs only $200 (Rs. 13,500) in India,
  • The rejection of a secondary patent for Novartis’ Glivec, a crucial leukaemia cure, was famously upheld by the Supreme Court of India in 2013, while the same was granted in the U.S.
  • Consequently, the cost of a monthly dose of the medicine in the U.S. was Rs. 1.6 lakh, while the cost of the generic was Rs. 11,100 in India.

Good patent law:

  • Study sheds new light on how Indian patent law helps thwart evergreening practices by pharmaceutical companies.
  • Secondary patents for several blockbuster medicines have been rejected by the IPO dramatically expanding access to medicines for important health problems such as cancer, AIDS, asthma and cardiovascular diseases.
  • None of this would have been possible without some remarkable innovations in Indian patent law.

Provisions:

  • As per Section 2(1)(ja) of the Patents Act, the product in question must feature a technical advance over what came before that’s not obvious to a skilled person.
  • Because secondary patents for pharmaceuticals are often sought for trivial variants, they typically fail to qualify as an invention.
  • Further, when a medicine is merely a variant of a known substance, Section 3(d) necessitates a demonstration of improvement in its therapeutic efficacy.
  • The provision also bars patents for new uses and new properties of known substances.
  • This additional requirement is unique to Indian law, and along with Section 2(1)(ja), ensures that bad patents stay out of the system.
  • Section 3(e) ensures that patents for combinations of known substances are allowed only if there is synergistic effect, while Section 3(i) ensures that no exclusivity can be claimed over methods of treatment.
  • Together, Sections 3(d), 3(e) and 3(i) have been instrumental in rejecting close to 1,000 secondary patents for pharmaceuticals we studied.

Biologics:

  • These provisions also extend to biologics, the new big players in the therapeutics marketplace.
  • Thanks to the provisions in the patent law, Humira enjoys no patent protection in India, since AbbVie restricted their Indian filings to only cover their secondary patents.

Environment:

Air pollution behind poor lung capacity among kids: study(The Hindu)

Context:

A report released by the Hazards Centre revealed that air pollution is behind poor lung capacity among children in Delhi

About the Study:

  • Particulate matter pollution was monitored over 15 different locations in Delhi
  • The study was conducted for more than three months in a row this winter on a sample size of 343
  • The study conducted a peak flow test (done to measure how well your lungs are working by assessing how quickly one can blow air)
  • Tests were conducted in areas where the monitors are installed, and out of the 15 locations, the samples for the health study were taken from 11 different areas.
  • The samples were collected from Holambi, Bhalaswa, Ayanagar, Punjabi Bagh, Wazirpur, Seelampur, Seemapuri, Saket, Okhla-NFC, Badarpur-TGK and Munirka.

Highlights of the Report:

  • The study revealed 80% of the sample population had unhealthy or below the normal lung functioning.
  • The study also found that in the southern and northern peripheries of the city children seem to have better health
  • However, air is of poor quality in the entire city

Air Pollution in Delhi:

The air quality monitoring highlighted the fact that there is a base pollution load across Delhi of about 300 ug/m3 for PM10 and 200 ug/m3 for PM2.5, which is three times higher than the approved limits

Causes of the air pollution

  • The source of pollution is located in Delhi
  • Industrial emission and vehicle fumes which has been sealed by cool temperature and still winds is the main reason behind this pollution
  • At the same time, mass burning of crop waste across the north Indian hinterland has sent dense smoke

The impact

  • Severe air pollution has caused a public health crisis in Delhi
  • It not only causes respiratory diseases but in the longer term, consistent poor quality air is seen to be altering the demographics of cancer in the city.

NGT seeks report on rainwater harvesting(The Hindu)

Context:

  • The National Green Tribunal (NGT) recently directed the Delhi government to submit within three weeks a report on the number of flyovers here having rainwater harvesting systems.

Why is in news?

  • The tribunal was hearing a plea filed by Mehrauli resident Vinod Kumar Jain who sought directions to make it compulsory for all government buildings of 100 square metres and above to have rainwater harvesting systems.
  • Earlier, the NGT had rapped the State government for not submitting the detailed report.
  • The green panel had also directed the Centre and other public authorities to ensure that the rainwater harvesting systems are installed in every project including flyovers and bridges.

Rain water harvesting:

  • Rainwater harvesting is the accumulation and storage of rainwater for reuse on-site, rather than allowing it to run off.
  • Rainwater can be collected from rivers or roofs, and in many places, the water collected is redirected to a deep pit (well, shaft, or borehole), a reservoir with percolation, or collected from dew or fog with nets or other tools.
  • Its uses include water for gardens, livestock, irrigation, domestic use with proper treatment, indoor heating for houses, etc.
  • The harvested water can also be used as drinking water longer-term storage, and for other purposes such as groundwater recharge.
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