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Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS 2 -Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources
Context: The impact of Covid-19 on India has fuelled the debate on whether healthcare for all a should be a fundamental right.
Indian Constitution and Right to Healthcare:
Article 21: It is a fundamental right which guarantees protection of life and personal liberty to every citizen.
- The Supreme Court in Bandhu Mukti Morcha vs. Union of India case (1984) held that the right to live with human dignity includes protection of health.
- Further, the Supreme Court in State of Punjab vs. Mohinder Singh Chawla (1997) held that the right to health is integral to the right to life and the government has a constitutional obligation to provide health facilities.
Directive principles of State Policy: Article 38, 41, 42 and 47 cover various aspect of health/nutrition and mandate the state for effective intervention.
Healthcare as a Fundamental Right
Healthcare as a fundamental right would imply that the State should provide a system of health protection to all citizens, including prevention, treatment and control of diseases and access to essential medicines and mental healthcare.
Arguments in Favour
- Right to health is corollary to Right to Life: The right to health is a natural corollary of the right to life. Therefore, denying someone healthcare goes against Right to Life.
- Poverty and healthcare cost: Many people are faced with poverty in India every year due to high out-of-pocket (OOP) payments for healthcare and there is no financial protection for most healthcare needs.
- Non-discrimination and Equality: Fundamental Right to Healthcare will ensure that right to health and life is enjoyed without any discrimination on the grounds of race, age, ethnicity or financial status.
- International Commitments: The right to health is internationally recognised as a fundamental human right. It is included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, of which India is a signatory.
- Economic Burden on the Government: In a country like India, where the population is more than 130 crores, making healthcare a fundamental right will create huge economic burden on the government.
- Quality of Healthcare: In India, the healthcare infrastructure is already under strain and the quality of healthcare is poor. Making healthcare a fundamental right and provide free healthcare to all could lead further deterioration of health infrastructure.
- Individual is responsible for his/her health: Critics who are against the concept of Healthcare as a fundamental right, argue that individual is responsible for his/her own health and must pay for sickness.
Conclusion: India needs universal healthcare which is a complement to the right to healthcare. Universal health coverage is the need of the hour to ensure all individuals and communities receive quality health services as per needs, without suffering financial hardship.
Source: YOJANA April 2020
Syllabus: GS 2- Issues related to Indian Constitution
Context: On the 70th year of adoption of the Constitution of India, we need to look at the soul of the Constitution which are Preamble, the Fundamental Rights (Part III) and the Directive Principles of State Policy (Part IV) along with Fundamental Duties (Part IV-A).
Features of the Constitution:
- It is the longest written Constitution which lays down the basic structure and the framework of India’s polity.
- It is built on certain fundamental values embedded by the makers of the Constitution to ensure that there should be fairness and justice for every citizen of India.
- The inclusion of the Fundamental Rights in the Constitution is to ensure the inviolability of certain essential rights against political modifications.
Relevance of Fundamental Duties
- The 42nd Amendment Act, 1976 added Article 51A to balance the increasing tendencies of indifferent government business amongst its citizens and to check separatist growth.
- Fundamental Duties constitute the conscience of our Constitution.
- They should be treated as constitutional values that must be propagated by all citizens.
- They make citizens conscious of their social and citizenship responsibilities.
- Serve as a source of inspiration for the citizens and promote a sense of discipline and commitment.
- Realize the citizens that they are not mere spectators but active participants in the realization of national goals.
- They are enforceable by law and not by court. Hence, Parliament can provide for the imposition of appropriate penalty or punishment for failure to fulfill any of them.
Why the government is laying emphasis on creating awareness on eleven FDs?
The main idea is that these should become an integrated part of every Indian’s thoughts and actions and the balancing of fundamental rights is a constitutional necessity as every right gives rise to a corresponding duty.
Features of Fundamental duties:
- Idea: These are individual duties aimed at striking a balance between individual freedom and social interests.
- Judicial activism: But the Supreme Court (SC) held that the FDs are as important as Fundamental Rights and though Article 51A does not express any fundamental duty on the State, the duty of every citizen of India is the collective duty of the state and is a yardstick for State actions.
- In Union of India (UOI) v Naveen Jindal, the SC observed that FDs are contained in the concept of fundamental rights.
- In Shyam Narayan Chouksey v UOI, the SC stated that Article 51A(a) enjoins a duty on every citizen the duty to respect ideals and institutions, including the national flag and national anthem and made compulsory display of the national anthem prior to screening any movie in the theatres or cinema halls.
- The Courts have enforced the underlying idea of these duties by providing a set of actions and procedures.
- Non-Justiciable: The State has been given the responsibility to ensure compulsory education in Article 21A while Article 51A(k) does not penalize parents or guardians for not being able to send their wards to school.
- Supreme court has held that fundamental duties will used in determining reasonableness of any legislative restriction on the exercise of a freedom.
Reasons these principles could not enter in the lives of citizen
- Lack of awareness and sensitivity: It is important to create a conducive environment for spreading of these ideas.
- Need of practical Approach: The rights come with duties and responsibilities and the right approach is to give practical expression to both.
- The Various crises related to environment, mob-violence and terrorism etc. could be controlled if the human values could be inculcated right from the formative period of life.
- There is a strong requirement to maintain a strong balance between the rights and the duties.
Source: Gateway House
Syllabus: GS 2-Issues related to India’s foreign relations and effect of policies of developed and developing countries on India’s interests and Indian diaspora
Context: The COVID-19 pandemic has raised question on the governance around the world. It has raised the requirement of multiple actions by governments at the local, regional, national level and global level.
Objective behind India’s Corona-diplomacy
- To achieve national interest by protecting its people
- To help its Neighboring countries in pursuant to the Neighborhood first policy
Execution strategy of Corona Diplomacy:
- A friendly Neighbourhood:
- In March 2020, a virtual summit of SAARC was held with the efforts of PM Narendra Modi and allocated an emergency fund for SAARC nations and the collaboration of health professionals and trade ministers from member countries.
- India provided medicines, medical equipment, medical personnel and technical information to all SAARC member countries, except Pakistan.
- It led to SAARC Development Fund proposing $5 million to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on SAARC members and Pakistan belatedly announcing a contribution of $3 million which is to be administered through the SAARC secretariat and is not part of the emergency fund.
- A friendly world:
- India was appreciated for exporting Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and Paracetamol to the USA, Brazil, Mauritius and Seychelles.
- India also exported medicines to the Dominican Republic and developed nations such as Germany, Spain and Canada.
- Phone outreach:
- The telephone conversations of PM with world leaders for active cooperation were quick and impactful.
- Multilateral forums:
- The G20’s first virtual summit was held on 26 March 2020 with the efforts of PM and the 15 April meeting of G20 finance ministers and central bank governors came up with a G20 Action Plan.
- The World Bank has reduced estimation of growth in South Asia from 6.3% to between 1.8% and 2.8% in 2020.
- The UN General Assembly resolution and the UNSC’s statement on the pandemic have shown the ineffectiveness of the UN as a multilateral institution. The India has called for ‘a new globalization’ and reforms in WHO.
- The diaspora:
- India evacuated Indian nationals from pandemic affected countries and appreciated for the evacuation of foreign nationals stuck in India.
- The five-point advisory issued after the videoconference of PM with Indian heads-of-mission around the world came as a morale booster.
India’s diplomacy must reflect a balance between the country’s values and interests.
Source: Indian Express
Syllabus: GS-3- Science and Technology-Recent developments and their applications and effects in everyday life
Recently, University of Oxford has announced that they have started testing a vaccine against the novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
- It is a type of medicine that trains the body’s immune system so that it can fight a disease it has not encounter before. It helps in prevention of a disease and not the treatment for it.
- Vaccines contain the same germs that cause disease. The vaccines train the immune system to produce antibodies, exactly like it would when exposed to the disease. In this way, an immunity to the disease before exposure to the disease.
Stages in development of a vaccine
Generally, vaccine development takes nearly 10 years. The different phases of vaccine development are as follows:
- Discovery Stage: Identification of the biological pathogen and finding out its structure through genetic sequencing
- Pre-Clinical trials: Testing the vaccine in laboratories which also involves animal testing
- Clinical testing: It involves Human trials in three stages
- Phase 1: Testing the safety of vaccine in a small group of individuals
- Phase 2: Testing whether the vaccine creates the desired immune response in the individuals
- Phase 3: Testing the efficacy of vaccines in a larger group of individuals and studying its long-term effects.
- Regulatory approval: Approval of the vaccines by government agencies.
- Manufacturing: Manufacturing and distribution by pharmaceutical companies. Regular quality checks are also undertaken.
Immunity and Response
The immune system protects the body from harmful substances by recognizing and responding to antigens. Antigens are substances (usually proteins) on the surface of cells, viruses, fungi, or bacteria.
There are three types of immunity:
- Innate, or nonspecific, immunity is the defense system with which you were born. It protects you against all antigens. It involves barriers that keep harmful materials from entering your body. These barriers form the first line of defense in the immune response. Ex- Cough reflex, Enzymes in tears and skin oils, Mucus secretion etc
- Acquired immunity is immunity that develops with exposure to various antigens. Your immune system builds a defense against that specific antigen.
- Passive immunity is due to antibodies that are produced in a body other than your own. It is generated by administering antiserum or plasma, which contains antibodies that are formed by another person or animal. It provides immediate protection against an antigen,but does not provide long-lasting protection.
Vaccine is a form of acquired immunity, the dead/passive/similar antigen injected into the body, which helps in creation of the antibodies. This in turn fights the antigen(virus) upon entry.
Progress made for Coronavirus vaccine
Nearly 120 vaccine projects are in various stages of development. Of these 7 projects have entered the human trial phase. Some of the major developments in coronavirus vaccine development are:
- Italy: Italian researchers have claimed to develop a vaccine that has successfully generated antibodies in mice and blocked the virus from infecting cells. It is expected to work on humans as well.
- USA: Pfizer and BioNtech have collaborated and have started the clinical trials of their BNT162 vaccine programme.
- India: Serum Institute of India has collaborated with Codagenix, an American biotech company, to develop a “live attenuated” vaccine for coronavirus.
The new vaccine for which tests have been announced
- Oxford University’s Jenner Institute developed a vaccine called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19.
- It uses a weakened strain of common cold virus (adenovirus) that causes infections in chimpanzees.
- Scientists have taken the genetic material of the novel coronavirus present on the surface of the virus and put it in the virus.
Other therapy options besides vaccines
The World Health Organization has announced SOLIDARITY. It is an international clinical trial to help find an effective treatment for COVID-19. The drugs under trial are:
- Remdesivir: It is an anti-viral drug
- Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine: These are drugs used to treat malaria.
- Lopinavir and ritonavir: These are drugs for treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS
- Lopinavir and ritonavir plus interferon beta: Interferon beta is an immune system messenger for fighting viral infections.
Convalescent Plasma Therapy: It is being used to treat severely ill coronavirus patents. The process involves transfusing plasma (a blood component) from the body of people who have recovered from the virus to the severely ill patients.
Conclusion: Given the extent and effect of the coronavirus pandemic, a vaccine for the same is of paramount importance. It would help people develop immunity against the disease. This would help lockdowns to be lifted safely and provide the scope for relaxation of social distancing.
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS 3- Disaster Management
Context: Styrene gas leakage at a polymer plant in Visakhapatnam has killed several people and forced the evacuation of thousands of people. It is being termed as a chemical disaster.
- It a derivative of benzene and is a colourless, inflammable liquid that evaporates easily.
- It is included in the schedule of the Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemical Rules, 1989.
- It is used in the manufacturing of polystyrene plastics, fiberglass, rubber, and latex.
- It is also found in vehicle exhaust, cigarette smoke, and in natural foods like fruits and vegetables.
Effects of Exposure:
- Short-term exposure: It can result in respiratory problems, irritation in the eyes, irritation in the mucous membrane, and gastrointestinal issues.
- Long-term exposure: It could drastically affect the central nervous system and lead to other related problems like peripheral neuropathy. It could also lead to cancer and depression.
Chemical Disaster: It is the unintentional release of one or more hazardous substances that can cause harm to the environment, human and animal life. Example: Bhopal Gas Tragedy (1984) caused by accidental release of toxic gas Methyl Iso Cyanate (MIC).
Legal Safeguards against chemical disasters in India:
- Environment (Protection) Act, 1986: Under the Act, two rules have been notified for ensuring chemical safety, namely,
- The Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemicals Rules, 1989 (MSIHC) amended in 1994 and 2000
- The Chemical Accidents (Emergency, Planning, Preparedness, and Response) Rules, 1996 (EPPR) under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986
- Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991: It mandates hazard units to procure an insurance policy and deposit an equal amount in the Environment Relief Fund to provide immediate relief to victims of chemical accidents
- Bhopal Gas Leak (Processing of Claims) Act, 1985: It gives powers to the central government to secure the claims arising out of or connected with the Bhopal gas tragedy.
Prevention and Response to Chemical Disasters
Role of Industry
- Identification of hazardous activities:
- Good knowledge about the safety aspects of the industrial operations would enable prevention and mitigation
- Use of appropriate hazard identification tools such as checklists analysis, safety audit would help in mitigating the hazards.
- Maintenance of plant facility and equipment
- Proper maintenance of all the equipment and machinery at regular intervals
- Regular site safety and health inspection
Role of government
- Accident investigation board and chemical accident database: An accident investigation board should be set up in India to investigate the chemical disasters and bring out guidelines based on lessons learnt in each incident.
- Awareness Campaigns: This would help workers in reducing unsafe acts and in tackling the disaster if it were to happen.
- Research and development: Research into new methods of producing the product with less toxicity can to a large extent reduce the adverse effect if any accident were to happen.
- Offsite Emergency Planning: This would ensure that the local authority adequately discharges his duty to minimize the consequences of major accident to people and environment.
- Ensure Accountability: The government should ensure accountability by proper implementation of laws.
Conclusion: The toxic gas leak in Visakhapatnam is grim reminder to the importance of prevention and response to chemical disasters. It also highlights that there is an urgent need to strengthen occupational safety in India.
1. Energy efficiency measures saved Rs 89,000 crore in 2018-19: Report.
News: The Ministry of Power and New & Renewable Energy has released a report on the “Impact of energy efficiency measures for the year 2018-19”.
- The report was prepared by a third party agency PWC Ltd, who was engaged by the Bureau of Energy efficiency(BEE).
- Objective: To evaluate the performance and impact of all the key energy efficiency programmes in India, in terms of total energy saved and the related reduction in the CO2 emissions.
- It has identified key programmes as Perform, Achieve and Trade Scheme, Standards & Labelling Programme, UJALA Programme and Municipal Demand Side Management Programme.
- Perform Achieve and Trade Scheme (PAT): It was launched by BEE to provide the option to trade any additional certified energy savings with other designated consumers to comply with the Specific Energy Consumption reduction targets.
- Standards and Labeling: The BEE initiated the Standards and Labeling programme for equipment and appliances in 2006. It provides consumer knowledge about the energy efficiency of appliances through a star rating.
- Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All (UJALA) scheme: It was launched in 2015 to promote efficient lighting and enhance awareness on using efficient equipment.It is implemented by Electricity Distribution Company and Energy Efficiency Services Limited(EESL).
- Municipal Demand Side Management Programme:It was initiated by BEE during the Eleventh five year plan(2007-2012) to improve overall energy efficiency of the Urban Local Bodies(ULBs) which could lead to substantial savings in the electricity consumption, thereby resulting in cost reduction/savings for the ULBs.
2. GOI launches AYUSH interventions for COVID 19 situation
News: Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ministry of AYUSH jointly launched three clinical research studies on Ayurveda interventions as an add-on to standard care to COVID 19 situation
Clinical research studies on Ayurveda interventions as prophylaxis and as an add-on to standard care to COVID 19:
- It is a joint initiative of the Ministry of AYUSH, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Ministry of Science & Technology.
- It will study Ashwagandha and its prophylaxis against COVID-19. Also compare Ashwagandha with Hydroxychloroquine in the health care providers
Population based interventional studies: It will study the impact of Ayurvedic Interventions in prevention of COVID-19 infection in high risk populations.
Ayush Sanjivani application based study:
- The app has been developed by the Ministry of AYUSH.
- It will generate data from 5 crore people. The data will be used to study the acceptance and usage of AYUSH advocacies and measures among the population and its impact in prevention of COVID 19.
3. IIT-Delhi start-up comes out with washable mask
Facts: NSafe is an antimicrobial and washable face mask developed by IIT-Delhi start-up ‘Nanosafe Solutions’. The mask is reusable with triple-layered consisting of inner hydrophilic layer for comfort, middle layer having antimicrobial activity and outer most layer having water and oil repellent behavior.