9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – April 28, 2021

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Intellectual Property Rights vs Right to Access Basic Healthcare

Source: The Hindu

Gs3: Important International Institutions, agencies, and fora – their Structure, Mandate (WTO)

Synopsis: Intellectual Property rules governed by TRIPS agreement are still hindering equal access to basic healthcare. Even a crisis like Covid-19 Pandemic could not bring any relief from this regime.

Background

  • Quick and efficient vaccination is the most appropriate way to achieve global herd immunity against the virus.
  • However, compliance with TRIPS agreement deprives developing and least developed countries of their right to access affordable medical products.
  • Hence, countries like India and South Africa requested a temporary suspension of rules under the 1995 TRIPS Agreement.
  • But a group of states, the U.S., the European Union, the U.K., and Canada continues to block the waiver requested by India and South Africa in WTO.
  • Compliance with the TRIPS agreement will hamper global efforts to eradicate Covid-19 at the earliest.

 India and Patent laws

  1. India adopted the colonial-era laws that allowed for pharmaceutical patents.
  2. But in 1959, a committee chaired by Justice Rajagopala Ayyangar objected to this on ethical grounds.
  3. The committee stated that access to drugs at affordable prices is affected due to patent protection for pharmaceutical drugs.
  4. It also found that foreign corporations are misusing patent laws to avoid competition and to maintain monopolies. Further, lack of competition has given rise to exorbitant rates charged for essential medical drugs.
  5. With this backdrop, the Patents Act, 1970, was passed. It offered protection only over claims to process, and it helped to remove monopolies in pharmaceutical drugs.
  6. Further, it also allowed for the growth of generic manufacturers in India. As a result, life-saving drugs were made available to people at more affordable prices.
  7. For instance, drugs that reduce AIDS deaths in developed nations were made non-accessible for the rest of the world due to high costs.
  8. However, generic versions of these medicines manufactured in India helped to lower the price of AIDS drugs.
  9. But, with the advent of the TRIPS agreement in 1995, patent laws were again strengthened. Under WTO’s TRIPS agreement, countries violating patent laws are penalized by sanctions.

What are the arguments in support of protecting Patents?

  • A patent is an exclusive right that a state gives to an innovator to make, use and sell an inventive product or process.
  • Patent laws are usually justified on three distinct grounds:
    1. One, it is the natural and moral right of the people to claim control over their inventions.
    2. Two, exclusive licences promote invention and therefore benefit society as a whole (Utilitarianism)
    3. Three, individuals should be allowed to benefit from the fruits of their labor and merit

Why the above arguments are refuted?

  • First, the claim that the removal of patent protection will incur a loss to the company involved in research and development is untrue.
    • For instance, public money accounted for more than 97% of the funding towards the development of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
  • Second, the idea that patents are the only means available to promote innovation undermines other alternatives to promote innovation. For instance,
    • According to famous economist Joseph Stiglitz, the prize funds for medical research can replace the patent system.
    • It will be more efficient and more equitable as public funds will incentivize research while ensuring affordable medicines.

TRIPS regime is an example of inequitable existing world order. There is a need for a global collective action to replace the existing rules that place the right to access basic healthcare in danger.


Increasing Gender Gap in India

Source: Indian Express

Gs2:  mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

Synopsis: Various factual estimates on Women highlights India’s disregard for Women and the increasing Gender gap in India.

Background

  • India slips 28 spots on the 2021 Global Gender Gap index released by World Economic Forum.
  • Currently, India ranks 140th rank among 156 countries. In 2020, India’s rank was 112th among 153 countries on the index.
  • India was the 3rd worst performer in South Asia, after Afghanistan and Pakistan. Whereas Bangladesh topped the list in the South Asia region.

Why India’s rank slipped to 140 from 112th in 2021?

  • Declining political participation: the share of women ministers has declined sharply from 23 to 9 percent.
  • Declining labour force: Indian women’s labor force participation declined from 34.1 per cent in 1999-00 to 21 per cent in 2020.
  • Increasing crime against women: According to the National Crime Records Bureau data, nearly 88 rapes occurred daily in 2019, with Dalit women being more vulnerable.
  • Arbitrary use of State power to curtail women’s participation in social movements: For instance, arrest and sedition charges against Disha Ravi, Nodeep Kaur, Hidme Markam.

What are the other reasons for the increasing gender gap in India?  

  • Son meta preference: As per UNFPA estimates, each year India loses more than 46 million “missing women” due to misuse of ultrasound technology for sex-selective abortion.
  • Glass ceiling effect: Barriers for women to reach higher positions in corporates and public sector companies. India has only 15 percent of women as a board of directors.
  • Lack of educational opportunities due to Increase in Child marriages: According to National Family Health Survey 2020, reveals that child marriages have increased since the previous survey in 2015-16.
  • Sexual harassment in the workplace: for example, the MeToo movement has exposed the vulnerabilities of women in workplaces.
  • Weak enforcement of laws: Crèches are legally mandatory in all offices with more than 50 employees and MNREGA worksites. However, in practice, they hardly exist.
  • Unpaid care work: As per the 2019 NSSO time-use survey, Indian women’s daily work is almost 10 times more than men’s on unpaid domestic chores.
  • Gender Digital divide: Though more than half of women have a mobile phone, only a third have access to the internet.
  • Increase in domestic violence: due to lack of economic independence

While other countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal, Rwanda are making serious efforts to close the Gender gap, India’s effort in this direction is poor. India needs to understand that Economic growth is not possible without the empowerment of women. The East Asian growth “miracle” was associated with large increases in the working women population.


Significance of India Pakistan Agreement on Consular Access

Source: click here

Syllabus: GS – India and Its neighborhood

Synopsis: India Pakistan Agreement on Consular Access is inactive. Hundreds of Indian fishermen have been suffering in Pakistan’s prisons for years with no end in sight.

Background:

An Indian fisherman named Ramesh Taba Sosa is the recent victim of an inhuman and crooked system involving India and Pakistan. Sosa died in a prison hospital in Malir Jail, Karachi, Pakistan and his mortal remains have not been returned yet.

  • There is no guarantee when his family in Nanavada, in Gujarat, will be able to conduct his last rites.
  • Sosa was arrested in May 2019 when his fishing boat entered Pakistani waters. His sentence in the Pakistani prison ended on July 3, 2019, but neither he was sent back home nor he was given consular access till his death. This is an issue of basic human rights.
  • In 2008, India and Pakistan signed the Agreement on Consular Access. Section 4 of the agreement states that the governments of both nations would provide consular access. This has to be provided within three months to citizens of another country, under arrest, detention, or imprisonment in the other country.
  • Section 5 of the agreement provides that within one month of confirmation of the national status and completion of sentences both governments should release and return people.

What are the impacts of not implementing an agreement on consular access?

  • More than 300 Indian fishermen are in Pakistan’s custody in Malir jail. The nationality of a person cannot be confirmed without consular access, which is not easily available. There are several instances in which both countries did not confirm nationality for as long as 18 months.
  •  In very rare cases, it had happened that a prisoner repatriated the day he completed the prison sentence.
  • Other similar cases:
    • A fisherman named Vaaga Chauhan died in Pakistani custody in December 2015. His mortal remains reached his village in April 2016.
    • Latif Qasim Sama accidentally crossed over to Pakistan in 2018. He was arrested and his sentence ended in April 2019. Latif didn’t get consular access. Ismail Sama returned from a Pakistan jail after 13 years for the same mistake.
    • Fishermen from the Saurashtra region of Gujarat often get arrested when they accidentally cross over into Pakistani waters.
    • Dharam Singh from Kashmir had unknowingly crossed over in 2003. He spent 18 years in a Pakistani prison. He was later punished by 14 years of imprisonment. This ended in December last year but he reached home this month.

What should be done?

  • In 2007, India and Pakistan set up a joint judicial committee on prisoners including four retired judges from both sides. The committee used to assemble twice a year to meet prisoners. It facilitated many repatriations.
  • However, its last meeting was held in 2013 after which it was stopped. In 2018, efforts were made to restart it, but Pakistan is yet to appoint judges or call for a meeting.
  • The committee should be revived at the earliest. Delay is costing lots of lives.

Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | 28 Apr, 2021

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