- If the medical board will affirm that the patient’s condition is beyond cure and irreversible only then advance directive to withdraw medical care to allow him to die with dignity should take effect, Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra made a statement on allowing Euthanasia.
What is the debate?
- The Chief Justice, heading a five-judge Constitution Bench, was responding to a debate on when exactly a person’s “living will” or advance directive for end-of-life medical care should take effect.
- The court was hearing a petition by an NGO, Common Cause, to legalise euthanasia and the concept of living will.
What is the final verdict and suggestions?
- Guidelines for drafting living wills and how it could be authenticated will be laid down. The Supreme Court has reserved the case for judgement.
- Advance directives may be approved by a Magistrate. The Magistrate has to examine that the person executing the living will is of sound mind or not.
- A certificate from a statutory medical board that a patient’s condition was beyond cure and irreversible would take care of apprehensions of relatives and doctors about withdrawing life support.
- The medical board will be taking this decision impartially and on the touchstone of modern technology.
- The Constitution Bench suggested framing guidelines for setting up medical boards in every district. The decision of the board would be final and an advance directive should yield to the board’s decision.
- A two-fold test is also suggested as to when living will would come into effect. One, when the medical condition of the patient has become irreversible. Two, when the prolongation of his life can be done only at the cost of pain and suffering which is at a level inconsistent with his advance directive.
- The government maintains that the legalization of “advance directives” would amount to the waiving of the paramount fundamental right to life enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution.
- Allowing passive euthanasia opposes the concept of living will as a principle of public policy. It said the State’s primary obligation was to sustain life and not legalize a person’s wish to die.
- The government is rightly concerned that the idea may be misused and result in the neglect of the elderly.
- The government is finalizing a draft law on passive euthanasia called ‘The Management of Patients With Terminal Illness – Withdrawal of Medical Life Support Bill.
- This bill comes under the light of the Law Commission of India which recommends that life support can be withdrawn for patients in persistent vegetative state (PVS) or suffering an irreversible medical condition.
What is euthanasia? What is Passive euthanasia?
- Euthanasia is the practice of intentionally ending a life to relieve pain and suffering. There are different euthanasia laws in each country.
- Euthanasia is categorized in different ways, which include voluntary, non-voluntary, or involuntary.
- Voluntary euthanasia is conducted with the consent of the patient.
- Non-voluntary euthanasia is conducted when the consent of the patient is unavailable. It is illegal worldwide.
- Involuntary euthanasia is conducted against the will of the patient. This is also illegal.
- Passive euthanasia is the subdivision of Voluntary, non-voluntary and involuntary euthanasia.
- Passive euthanasia involves the withdrawing of treatment or food that would allow the patient to live.
What is a living will?
- A living will is a concept associated with passive euthanasia. It is a legal document that allows one to express their wishes to doctors in case you become incapacitated.
- In a living will, one can outline whether or not you want your life to be artificially prolonged in the event of a devastating illness or injury.
- It can give invaluable guidance to family members and healthcare professionals if a person can’t express his or her wishes.
Passive euthanasia in Indian constitution:
- In March 2011, the Supreme Court of India passed a historic judgement-law permitting Passive Euthanasia in the country.
- The Supreme Court specified two irreversible conditions to permit Passive Euthanasia Law in its 2011 Law:
- The brain-dead for whom the ventilator can be switched off and
- Those in a Persistent Vegetative State (PVS) for whom the feed can be tapered out and pain-managing palliatives are added.
- After the case of Aruna Shanbaug’s euthanasia, the Supreme Court laid the following guidelines:
- A decision has to be taken to discontinue life support either by the parents or the spouse or other close relatives, or in the absence of any of them, such a decision can be taken even by a person or a body of persons acting as a next friend.
- Even if a decision is taken by the near relatives or doctors or next friend to withdraw life support, such a decision requires approval from the High Court concerned.
- When such an application is filled the Chief Justice of the High Court should forthwith constitute a Bench of at least two Judges who should decide to grant approval or not.
Accountability, not armour plating: (The Hindu, Editorial)
- With rising atrocities in a democratic country like India, there is a need of debate on police reforms.
What is the need of police in the democracy?
- Democracy is the only system of governance that, guarantees the freedom of people and the police as an only institution to protect and curtail the citizenry’s excesses.
- The police, in any society are the most visible representative of the state’s power. They serve as the backbone of the state’s peace and tranquility.
Some of the key roles of the police in the democracy are as follows:
- Firstly, the police are expected to be in the front line of defence of not only human rights but in defending our nascent democracy.
- Secondly, the police make effective communication between the commoners and law and order.
- Thirdly, police takes political, social, and psychological decisions under the radar of democratic nature of Indian society.
What is the need for police reforms in India?
The first thing to note here is that ‘police’ is a ‘state’ subject. Nevertheless, there are a number of different problems that plague the institution in all the states.
- Today, police have become the subjects of Parliamentarians and legislators with a high degree of politicization and allegiance towards ruling party.
- The global average ratio of police-population is 270 to 100,000, where it’s 120 in India.
- With far less man power and ill-equipped, people of India are the least secured people on the globe.
- There is lack of effective accountability mechanisms.
- The lack of effective accountability mechanisms and periodic review of performance has misplaced the public’s confidence in the police.
- Due to corruption in the police system, the investigation process goes on for decades.
What are the police reforms required in India?
- Primarily, there should be a balance ought to be stroked between allowing the freedom of an individual and the enforcement of all the lawful laws of the society.
- To strengthen the lacking effectiveness of the police force, the government comes up with the following initiatives:
- Recently, an Umbrella Scheme, ‘Modernisation of Police Forces’, has been cleared, with the government.
- It is said to be one of the biggest moves towards police modernisation in India.
Supreme Court’s directives on police reform, 2006
The Court has put on record the deep rooted problems of politicization, lack of accountability mechanisms and systemic weaknesses that have resulted in poor all round performance.
- Directive One: Constitute a State Security Commission (SSC) to: (i) Ensure that the state government does not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the police (ii) Lay down broad policy guideline and (iii) Evaluate the performance of the state police
- Directive Two: Ensure that the DGP is appointed through merit based transparent process and secure a minimum tenure of two years.
- Directive Three: Ensure that other police officers on operational duties (including Superintendents of Police in-charge of a district and Station House Officers in-charge of a police station) are also provided a minimum tenure of two years.
- Directive Four: Separate the investigation and law and order functions of the police.
- Directive Five: Set up a Police Establishment Board (PEB) to decide transfers, postings, promotions and other service related matters of police officers of and below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police and make recommendations on postings and transfers above the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police.
- Directive Six: Set up a Police Complaints Authority (PCA) at state level to inquire into public complaints against police officers of and above the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police in cases of serious misconduct, including custodial death, grievous hurt, or rape in police custody and at district levels to inquire into public complaints against the police personnel below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police in cases of serious misconduct.
- Directive Seven: Set up a National Security Commission (NSC) at the union level to prepare a panel for selection and placement of Chiefs of the Central Police Organisations (CPO) with a minimum tenure of two year.
- The overall functioning of lower-level officers can be boosted by better training, better pay and allowances and by creating a system that rewards initiative and positive action instead of negative behavior.
Indian Economy. Planning, Growth and Employment
- The Centre in the GST Council meeting has taken a decision to reduce the cascading effect of excluding petrol, diesel, ATF, natural gas and crude oil from the purview of GST and to incentivize investment in the Exploration and Production sector.
- The decisions include cutting the rate on ancillary services such as transport of natural gas through a pipeline, and import of rigs.
Recommendations for GST rate structure
- Offshore works contract services and associated services relating to oil and gas exploration and production in offshore areas beyond 12 nautical miles would be taxed at 12%.
- The transportation of natural gas through pipelines would attract GST of 5% without input tax credits (ITC), or 12% with full ITC.
- Import of rigs and ancillary goods imported under lease will be exempted from IGST, subject to payment of appropriate IGST on the supply/import of such lease service.
- GST on bunker fuel has been reduced to 5%, both for foreign going vessels and coastal vessels.
Effect of the exclusion
- The exclusion of these products from GST increases the cost of these products as input GST is not creditable against the sale of these products adds to the cost of these products.
- Excise duty/VAT payable on sale of these products is not available as credit to industries buying these products. Thus, it is a double hit.
What are Petro-products?
- Petro – products are materials derived from crude oil as it is processed in oil refineries. They are complex mixtures. The majority of petroleum is converted to petroleum products, which includes several classes of fuels.
- According to the composition of the crude oil and depending on the demands of the market, refineries can produce different shares of petroleum products.
- The largest share of oil products is used as “energy carriers”, i.e. various grades of fuel oil, and gasoline. These fuels include or can be blended to give gasoline, jet fuel, diesel fuel, heating oil, and heavier fuel oils.
Economic slowdown reflects an investment in India’s future: (Live Mint, Editorial)
- India’s economic growth for 2017 and 2018 will be slower than earlier projections, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said in its latest World Economic Outlook.
- The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an organization of 189 countries,Created in 1945 working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world.
- The IMF, also known as the Fund, was conceived at a UN conference in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, United States, in July 1944.
- The IMF’s primary purpose is to ensure the stability of the international monetary system—the system of exchange rates and international payments that enables countries (and their citizens) to transact with each other. The Fund’s mandate was updated in 2012 to include all macroeconomic and financial sector issues that bear on global stability.
World economic outlook report
- The World Economic Outlook (WEO) is a survey conducted and published by the International Monetary Fund.
- It is published biannually and partly updated two times a year.
- It portrays the world economy in the near and medium context, with projections for up to four years into the future. WEO forecasts include key macroeconomic indicators, such as GDP, inflation, current account and fiscal balance.
World Economic Outlook, October 2017
- Theme: Seeking Sustainable Growth: Short-Term Recovery, Long-Term Challenges
- The global upswing in economic activity is strengthening, with global growth projected to rise to 3.6 percent in 2017 and 3.7 percent in 2018.
- The IMF projected India to grow at 6.7% in 2017 and 7.4% in 2018, which are 0.5 and 0.3 percentage points less than the projections earlier this year, respectively.
Reason for the decline in growth forecast
- The implementation of a nationwide GST reform.
- Fall in exports especially merchandise
- Loss of jobs in Services sector
- Increased Protectionism worldwide
- In a democracy this large, attempting reforms on this scale, there were always going to be compromises and some operational sticking points. Better to address sooner than later.
- The IMF looks forward to a re-acceleration of growth after these blips related to the tax reform, saying it is “among several key structural reforms under implementation that are expected to help push growth above 8 percent in the medium term.
A less perilous world: (Indian Express, Editorial)
The 2017 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.
- This year’s Peace prize to ICAN (International campaign to Abolish Weapons) comes at a time when the threat posed by nuclear weapons has been all too evident in the global crisis triggered by North Korea’s nuclear programme.
- The prize was awarded “for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons”
- Award comes as tensions increase between the US and North Korea
- In July, 122 nations backed a UN treaty designed to ban and eventually eliminate all nuclear weapons following heavy lobbying by ICAN.
What is the rationale behind giving this year’s award?
- The award will be seen as a rebuke to the US and other eight countries that possess nuclear weapons which boycotted the negotiations leading to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
- The Nobel announcement comes against a backdrop of heightened tensions in east Asia between the US and North Korea over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme.
- It also comes two years after world powers sealed a breakthrough nuclear deal with Iran.
What can be the harmful threat of Nuclear Weapons?
“Nuclear weapons pose a constant threat to humanity and all life on earth.”
- Nuclear weapons are fundamentally different from conventional weapons because of the vast amounts of explosive energy they can release and the kinds of effects they produce, such as high temperatures and radiation.
- The prompt effects of a nuclear explosion and fallout are well known through data gathered from the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan.
- A special feature of a nuclear explosion is the emission of nuclear radiation, which may be separated into initial radiation and residual radiation. Initial radiation, also known as prompt radiation, consists of gamma rays and neutrons and produced within a minute of the detonation
- Gamma rays and neutrons can produce harmful effects in living organisms, a hazard that persists over considerable distances because of their ability to penetrate most structures.
- Residual radiation and fallout
Residual radiation is defined as radiation emitted more than one minute after the detonation. If the fission explosion is an airburst, the residual radiation will come mainly from the weapon debris. If the explosion is on or near the surface, the soil, water, and other materials in the vicinity will be sucked upward by the rising cloud, causing early (local) and delayed (worldwide) fallout..
What is ICAN?
- Launched in 2007, ICAN is described as a global civil society coalition and is based in the offices of the World Council of Churches in Geneva.
- It comprises 468 partner organisations in 101 countries.
- ICAN is funded by private donations as well as the EU and countries including Norway, Switzerland, Germany and the Vatican.
- ICAN is a coalition of civil society groups and governments campaigning for total disarmament.
- It helped achieve the UN treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons, which exposes the dangerous narcissism of the permanent members of the UN Security Council.
- ICAN, coalition of more than 450 civil society groups around the world that is justly credited with spreading an awareness of the dire humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons and of making the heroic effort to generate grassroots pressure sufficient to allow for the adoption of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by 122 UN member (also known as the ‘BAN Treaty’).
- The treaty was officially signed by 53 governments of UN member states this September and will come into force when 50 instruments of ratifications have been deposited at UN Headquarters, which suggests its legal status will soon be realized as signature is almost always followed by ratification.
Global steps to ban nuclear weapons:
- Recently,the world’s first legally-binding treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons opened for signature at United Nations Headquarters in New York.
- The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is the product of increasing concerns worldwide amidst rising tensions between U.S. And North Korea.
- Failure of NPT, CTBT (1996) on the name of maintaining deterrence against opponent (MAD-Mutually agreed deterrence principle) cannot got more support from numerous countries.
- It is clear that these weapons of mass destruction reach are not confined to a geographical boundary or country itself.
- The approval of ban over use of nuclear weapon is a landmark or paradigm shift in the direction of disarmament.
- it prohibits or ban in totality production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons even underground explosions in all circumstances
- It also ensures strong provisions to protect victims of extreme radiation and contamination of environment
- It complements international ban on all categories of weapons of mass destruction following the prohibition of biological and chemical arms.
The core provision of the BAN Treaty:
The core provision of the BAN Treaty sets forth an unconditional legal prohibition of the weaponry that is notable for its comprehensiveness:
1- The prohibition extends to “the developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, possessing, stockpiling and deploying nuclear weapons, transferring or receiving them from others, using or threatening to use them, or allowing any stationing or deployment of nuclear weapons on national territories of signatories, and assisting, encouraging, or inducing any of these prohibited acts.”
- Effectiveness of treaty jeopardized due to reluctance of nuclear capable states.
- Absence of impartial checks mechanism, countries can continue clandestine nuclear Weapon
- Absence of weapons at last resort for some rogue nations or nation offended first, this treaty.
- Although nuclear capable states still defiant and showing resistance ,which will jeopardize its effectiveness ,but they must come on board to make a safer world
Opponents of De-Nuclearization:
- Standing in opposition to the BAN Treaty are all of the present nuclear weapons states, led by the United States.
- All five permanent members (P-5) of the UN Security Council and their allies refused to join in this legal prohibition of nuclear weapons.
- India, holds up its commitment to a nuclear weapons free world, but says there must be “universal, non-discriminatory and verifiable nuclear disarmament”.
- It stayed away from the treaty citing the Conference of Disarmament as the right forum to negotiate a “step-by-step process” to achieve a nuclear weapons free world.
A ‘regulatory lab’ for financial inclusion: (Live Mint, Editorial)
In a recent report, the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) household finance committee found the average Indian household keeps just 5% of its wealth in financial assets.
- Most is held in real estate and gold.
- In times of emergency, half of households turn to family, friends and moneylender.
- In July 2017 report, “Indian Household Finance”, found many barriers to participating in the formal financial system, many are supply-side frictions.
- India’s low participation in the formal financial sector is unusual compared with households in other countries.
- Globally, technological innovation is bringing more customized solutions to market for underserved households.
- Technology can reduce supply-side frictions by lowering cost, enhancing trust, and improving access at a massive scale.
Safe zone for innovation:
- The recent report offers several recommendations for fostering the introduction of more customized financial products to meet Indian households’ complex needs.
- The report calls for a more flexible regulatory process to encourage more financial innovation.
- One promising recommendation is to set up a “regulatory sandbox” to allow innovators to test new products and services in a controlled, yet live, environment
What is Sandbox?
- A sandbox is a safe zone where regulators facilitate small-scale roll-outs of new products to real customers without serious risks to consumers or financial stability.
- Regulators impose a variety of security and customer safeguards on companies participating in a sandbox, including enhanced disclosures, dispute resolution programmes, and customer compensation plans.
- Through the testing process and the empirical evidence gathered therefrom, a sandbox could facilitate proactive policy making and remove some regulatory uncertainty.
- Regulators in countries like the UK, Singapore and Australia are using sandboxes to evaluate the risk of new products and technologies.
- It opens the door to even more innovation and competition, not just sandbox participants.
What measures need to be taken to encourage increased investment in financial assets?
Measure to be taken:
- Increase in Interest and credit rates.
- Gold Monetisation scheme such as Sovereign Gold Bond Scheme be promoted at a higher interest rate.
- State involvement is must. States should encourage local municipal and panchayats to open branches and ATMs in Rural and Semi-Urban areas.
- RBI need to come up with a policy to limit any hassles of opening new branches by banks, allow more scope for innovation measures, limit regulatory clarity on launch of products, new stocks and funds relating to renewable energy, finance etc, reduction of repo and reverse repo rates.
What is financial inclusion?
- Financial inclusion means that individuals and businesses have access to useful and affordable financial products and services that meet their needs – transactions, payments, savings, credit and insurance – delivered in a responsible and sustainable way.
Challenges for financial inclusion:
While there has been progress toward financial inclusion, significant challenges remain:
- An estimated 2 billion adults worldwide don’t have a basic account.
- Globally, 59% of adults without an account cite a lack of enough money as a key reason, which implies that financial services aren’t yet affordable or designed to fit low income users.
- Other barriers to account-opening include distance from a financial service provider, lack of necessary documentation papers, lack of trust in financial service providers, and religion.
- More than 200 million formal and informal micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in emerging economies lack adequate financing to thrive and grow.
- MSMEs cite a lack of collateral and credit history, and business informality as main reasons for not having an account.
- Some groups are more financially excluded than others: Women, rural poor, and other remote or hard-to-reach populations, as well as informal micro and small firms are most affected.
Government schemes for financial inclusion:
- The government of India recently announced “ Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana”, a national financial inclusion mission which aims to provide bank accounts to at least 75 million people by January 26, 2015.
- Several Startups are working towards increasing Financial Inclusion in India by organising various large unorganised sectors where payments primarily happen in Cash, instead of a bank transaction.
- Recently, the government of India came up with a policy under the name “rupee exchange” to exchange higher notes with the intent of: clamping down on tax defaulters, track down corrupt officers ( by rendering valueless heavy cash stashed away secretly) and generally restoring sanity to the economic system.
- Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced this scheme for comprehensive financial inclusion on his first Independence Day speech on 15 August 2014.
- In India, RBI has initiated several measures to achieve greater financial inclusion, such as facilitating no-frills accounts and GCCs for small deposits and credit. Some of these steps are:
- Opening of no-frills accounts: Basic banking no-frills account is with nil or very low minimum balance as well as charges that make such accounts accessible to vast sections of the population. Banks have been advised to provide small overdrafts in such accounts.
- Opening of branches in unbanked rural centres
- Simplified branch authorization: To address the issue of uneven spread of bank branches.
- Technology offers a means to deliver financial services directly to consumers in a much more frictionless manner.
- Technology is evolving fast, and regulators need a more efficient approach to understand new models, protect consumers, and ensure the stability of the financial system without choking off innovation.
- A regulatory sandbox provides a platform for testing, learning, and adapting—striking the right balance between fostering cutting-edge innovation and the policy objectives of stability and inclusion.
- Three marine species, the Pondicherry Shark, the Red Sea Torpedo and the Tentacled Butterfly Ray might have become possibly extinct in the waters of the Arabian Seas Region (ASR).
- Scientists are also worried about the possible disappearance of other species from the region even before they were known to science.
The scenario of the marine extinction in details:
- The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission Shark Specialist Group reviewed the extinction risk and conservation status of all chondrichthyans naturally reproducing in the region
- The assessment revealed that 27 species were near threatened and 19 others were of least conservation concerns.
- It was also known that less was known about 29 to evaluate their risk of extinction.
- The assessors were of the view that the increasing decline in the extent and quality of habitat as a result of coastal development and other anthropogenic disturbances.
- Particularly for those critical habitats that many species depend on coral reefs, mangroves, sea grasses pose a serious threat to the survival of many species.
What is IUCN?
- The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), officially International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources is an international organization working in the field of nature conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.
- It is involved in data gathering and analysis, research, field projects, advocacy, and education.
- IUCN’s mission is to influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable.
- With time, IUCN has widened its focus beyond conservation ecology and now incorporates issues related to sustainable development in its projects.
The IUCN Programme 2017–2020 identifies three priority areas:
- Valuing and conserving nature.
- Promoting and supporting effective and equitable governance of natural resources.
- Deploying Nature Based Solutions to address societal challenges including climate change, food security and economic and social development.
What are the reasons for extinction?
- Scientists have narrowed down several of the most likely causes of mass extinction. Some of them are as follows:
- For many years, killing by human was a major factor of extinction. Humans kill other species for many reasons including food, recreation, and to protect themselves and their properties.
- For example, exploitation is responsible for 55% of the main extinction threat to North American marine fishes.
- Biological, physical and chemical factors in most ecosystems are tightly intertwined. Hence changes in one of these factors can result in changes of others.
- Exploitation of habitat can therefore profoundly influence many components of a system.
- More recently, climate change such as global warming has increased local water temperatures beyond the suitable range of many species.
- A study of nearly 300 people living in different parts of India found that nine single-base variants (single-nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs) account for 31% variation in the color of the skin.
What are single-nucleotide polymorphisms?
- Single nucleotide polymorphisms, frequently called SNPs (pronounced “snips”), are the most common type of genetic variation among people.
- Each SNP represents a difference in a single DNA building block, called a nucleotide.
- SNPs occur normally once in every 300 nucleotides on average, which means there are roughly 10 million SNPs in the human genome.
What was the observation of the study?
- Researchers at the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics (CDFD), Hyderabad tested 30 SNPs
- The single-base variant rs1426654 accounts for 25-38% of skin colour variation between Africans and Europeans.
- Rs1426654 was one of the four SNPs that had maximum effect on skin pigmentation in people living here.
What is the reason behind diverse skin pigmentation?
- The gene variants (allele) that give the skin a darker color due to the presence of higher amount of melanin pigment are found in people living in south India
- Being closer to the equator, the darker skin in the south Indian population protects them from strong UV rays of the Sun.
- The darker skin of people in south India was reflected in higher mean melanin index (a representation of the amount of melanin in the skin) of 48 compared with mean melanin index of 39 in the case of people in north India.
- The population in east and west India has intermediate values (mean MI of 41). The melanin index did not vary within a given geographical region.