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Here is our 9pm current affairs brief for you today
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9 PM for Main examination
- Drug approval in India and associated issues
- Bad to worse: On India-Pakistan ties
- Leader or institution – Who is dealing with Pandemic?
- On Government e-Marketplace
- The question of Kashmir
9 PM for Preliminary examination
1.Drug approval in India and associated issues
Source – The Hindu
Syllabus – GS 2- Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.
Context – Controversy is brewing in India due to the opacity surrounding the regulatory approval granted to Favipiravir for the treatment of COVID-19 patients with mild or moderate symptoms.
Process for demonstrating the efficacy of a drug in treating a particular disease:
- Testing drug and getting the outcome
- Figure 1 – Process of Randomised clinical trials
- Peer reviewing– The data collected from such clinical trials are usually published in a peer-reviewed journal where they are subject to scientific scrutiny.
Issues associated with Glenmark’s Favipiravir’s trial and data:
- Treating COVID patients– The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) has approved Glenmark Pharmaceuticals, an Indian pharmaceutical company, to sell generic versions of Favipiravir for the treatment of COVID-19. This has been done without scientific consensus on the efficacy of the drug.
- Tested patients with “mild” COVID-19 for RCT– The decision to enroll patients with “mild” COVID-19 is confusing given that virtually all these “mild” cases often resolve themselves without any intervention.
- Absence of “standard care” – Clinical Trials Registry of India (CTRI) does not explain the nature of the “standard care” being provided to the patients which is necessary for comparison of Favipiravir and its therapeutic value.
- Culture of secrecy – In this case, the minutes of the meetings, the composition of the Subject Expert Committee and the clinical trial results submitted to the SEC/DCGI are not available on the DCGI’s website.
- Following the procedure set up by DGCI :
Way Forward – The pandemic has not only exposed the dire situation of the public health infrastructure, but also the opacity with which drug/medical device approvals are granted in India. This needs to be resolved at the earliest to restore public confidence in regulator as regulator is supposed to protect interests of general public rather than jeopardising them.
2.Bad to worse: On India-Pakistan ties
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS 2- India and its neighbourhood- relations
Context: India, followed by Pakistan, has decided to halve the strength of diplomatic missions in each other’s capital.
India Downgrading ties with Pakistan:
- Diplomatic feud: It is due to ill-treatment and torture of Indian personnel posted in Islamabad which is clear violation of their diplomatic rights under Vienna Convention.
- Pakistan claimed that the two men arrested were carrying fake currency, but it is more likely a response to arrests and the expulsion of two Pakistani High Commission officials accused of espionage.
- Terror links of Pakistan: New Delhi also accused Pakistan High Commission officials of maintaining “links to terror organisations” as a reason for its decision.
Diplomatic expulsions are not uncommon but this is the first such measure at this scale taken by India since 2001.
Similar diplomatic feuds:
- Parliament attack December 2001: The diplomatic expulsions were triggered by the largest military mobilization of the time along the India-Pakistan border named Operation Parakram.
- Thaw in relations: The move was reversed after PM’s visit to Pakistan for the SAARC summit in 2004 and diplomats were gradually taken back to a full strength of over a 100 in each High Commission.
Recent Downslide in relations between India and Pakistan:
- No talks: India and Pakistan had no talks since 2015 when Indian PM visited Lahore and the External Affairs Ministers met a few months later.
- All sporting and cultural exchanges are at standstill and visas are rarely granted apart from the rare exception being made for the Kartarpur corridor.
- Ceasefire violations along LoC: They continue to claim lives of soldiers and civilians on both sides.
- Non-cooperation on non-contentious issues: They are unable to find common cause in issues such as cooperating on the coronavirus pandemic as a part of the SAARC grouping or collaborating against the recent locust invasion that affected the region.
The relations between India and Pakistan are getting worse and even the future doesn’t augur well in the backdrop of India-China tensions. Ties between them seem strained beyond immediate repair.
3.Leader or institution – Who is dealing with Pandemic?
Source – The Hindu
Syllabus – GS 2 – Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Context – For the thinking Indian, the management of the pandemic, is both unsatisfactory and misguided due to lack of National Plan to fight the COVID 19.
Institution versus Individual leader – B.R. Ambedkar said to all who are interested in the maintenance of democracy, not ‘to lay their liberties at the feet of even a great man, or to trust him with power which enable him to subvert their institutions.’
Following are the challenges associated with absence of holistic approach to deal with pandemic:
- Failure of Institution building under National Disaster Management Act, 2005– Failure of successive governments to empower the institutions to deal with disasters effectively has made concentration of power in hands of individual leaders to lead the fight in pandemic.
- Focus on the ad-hoc approach– Instead of using National Disaster Management Plan (NDMP) to fight COVID, government has relied on thousands of government orders to tackle the pandemic which has brought chaos and confusion in administration as well as public.
- National Disaster Response Fund vs PMCARES– Currently the NDRF is inactive and PM CARES Fund has been set up to receive grants made by persons and institutions out of the NDRF, in violation of Section 46 of the National Disaster Management Act.
- PM CARES is not even audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India.
Way Forward – André Gide, the French writer, once said, “Everything has been said before, but since nobody listens, we have to keep going back and begin all over again.” Thus, we need the implementation of National Disaster Management Act, 2005 in spirit as well as letter instead of following a leader’s command and ad-hoc mechanisms.
4.On Government e-Marketplace
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS-3 Economy: Effects of liberalization on the economy (post 1991 changes), changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.
Context: Government e-Marketplace has made it mandatory for sellers to mention country of origin on products they wish to sell through the platform
About Government e-Marketplace (GeM)
- Launched in 2016, GeM is an e-marketplace for procurement of common use Goods & Services required by the government. It aims to enhance transparency, efficiency and speed in public procurement.
- Currently, government departments, ministries, public sector units, state governments, and Central Armed Police Forces can carry out transactions through this portal.
- At present, 3,94,461 sellers and service providers are registered with the portal to sell 18,30,688 products and several services
- Directorate General of Supplies and Goods (DGS&D) with technical support of National e- Governance Division (Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology) has developed GeM portal.
Recent Changes in GeM
- Mandatory for sellers to enter the country of origin while registering all new products on GeM. This step aims to promote ‘Make in India’ and ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’.
- Make in India filter has been enabled on the portal
- Revised public procurement (Preference to Make in India), Order 2017: It introduced a concept of Class-I, II and non-local suppliers, based on which they will get preference in government purchases of goods and services.
- Class I local suppliers- suppliers of those goods with more than 50% local content
- Class II local suppliers- those with more than 20% local content.
Are these changes enough to promote India-made products and self-reliance?
The recent attempt to promote local products by changes in GeM is at best symbolic. India’s reliance on imports from China extends beyond smartphones and low-cost electronics to heavy machinery and active pharmaceutical ingredients. Getting rid of this dependency is a long-term process and would require changes such as:
- greater investment in education, skill-building, encash demographic dividend and attract investors
- Infrastructural development to provide locational and agglomeration advantages
- Development of industrial parks to attract FDI
- Favorable policies to promote ease of doing business
Conclusion: India needs major policy changes, skill building, labor law reforms and an overhaul of bureaucratic processes to enhance manufacturing capacities with improved efficiency and reduced cost.
5.The question of Kashmir
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS 3- Security challenges and their management in border areas – linkages of organized crime with terrorism.
Context: Analyzing the impact of India’s decision on reorganization of Jammu and Kashmir in 2019 on the LAC and LoC.
The impact of reorganisation of J&K:
|On Pakistan||On China|
|· Effect on Simla Agreement of 1972:
· Pakistan argues that this Agreement which forms a key basis of bilateral relations including the management of the LoC is not valid anymore as India’s decision goes against the spirit of the Agreement.
· The agreement states that neither side should alter the situation unilaterally till a final settlement is reached.
· Serious implications:
· Governing of India-Pakistan borders in J&K: If this agreement is void then the agreement governing their borders would have to be the one signed in Karachi in 1949 at the end of their first war in 1948.
· Territorial adjustments could become null and void: As the Simla Agreement formalised several territorial changes which took place until December 1971.
· This raises two specific issues:
· End to existing ceasefire agreements between them: Since the current ceasefire agreement between them (declared in 2003) is essentially a reiteration of the ceasefire agreement declared at the end of the 1971 war.
· Effect on LoC: The LoC came into being (replacing the ceasefire Line in 1971) after Simla agreement. If the agreement is nullified, its effects on LoC are not clear.
|· Beijing became uneasy due to India’s strong official claim about Aksai Chin that has been under the Chinese control.
· Boundary disputes: From Beijing’s perspective, this complicated the ongoing boundary talks between the two sides. For example- bringing Ladakh under India’s central rule annoyed China since it considers Ladakh’s borders to be disputed between them.
· Changing status quo: Like Pakistan, China argues that India changed the status of a territory (J&K) whose borders were still being negotiated.
Official data show a steady rise in violence in Kashmir since 2014 and early trends on violence in 2020 show that the levels of violence will indeed cross those of 2019.
Consequences for India:
- Emboldening China: After an all-party meeting, the Indian PM stated that Neither is anyone inside the Indian territory nor any of our border posts are captured. China is using this statement to justify its position on the LAC. It could now further embolden China to undertake more border raids and land capture attempts.
- Strategic importance:
- For India: Chinese aggression close to Eastern Ladakh could frustrate its hold over Siachen glacier and compromise its security in the western frontier given the close partnership between Islamabad and Beijing.
- For China: The region is important for the CPEC and its access to Central Asia which are part of its “Belt and Road” grand strategy.
- Bringing Pakistan and China closer than ever on the Kashmir question:
- China has changed its position from somewhat neutral on the Kashmir question in the 1990s and 2000s to now when it claims to be an aggrieved party. China is now a much more powerful third party in Kashmir conflict.
- Our strategy should have been to weaken the China-Pakistan alliance by engaging China economically, multilaterally and regionally.
- India’s decisions should not be based on tactical and political considerations but on cold and clear-headed strategic assessment.
9 PM for Preliminary examination
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