Climate events and an umbrella for urban health
Context: Monsoon season in India causing significant devastation, attracting media attention. Concerns arise about public health consequences due to cyclonic storms, heavy rains, floods, and other extreme weather events.
Relevance: GS 1 Climate
Water and Vector-Borne Disease Threat
- Common diseases like typhoid, cholera, dysentery, leptospirosis, malaria, and dengue likely to impact rain-affected areas.
- Favorable conditions for disease spread due to standing water and increased vector activity.
Vulnerability in Urban Areas
- Urban regions, especially slums and underdeveloped city parts, most susceptible.
- People in these areas lack social security, live in poverty, and work in the informal sector.
Study on Disease Vulnerability
- Study published in Indian Journal of Public Health emphasizes vulnerability to climate change-related events.
- Urban households more susceptible to malaria compared to rural households.
- Dengue impacts urban population more; high and moderately high climate-vulnerable states prone to malaria.
Challenges in Disease Management
- Post-monsoon, efforts needed to monitor and control water and vector-borne diseases.
- Coordination challenging due to population movement between states.
Rebuilding the Health System
- Urban primary health-care system needs rebuilding for resilience.
- Focus on vulnerable urban populations in slums and peri-urban areas.
- Increased public investment required, especially in vulnerable urban areas.
Learning from COVID-19 Experience
- Urban health governance complex due to multiple agencies and private sector influence.
- COVID-19 highlights need for coordination, data sharing, regulation, and surveillance in public health emergencies.
- Strengthening Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme for improved monitoring and response.
Transition to Comprehensive Health System Approach
- Shift from vertical disease control programs to comprehensive health system approach.
- Integration of frontline workers across disease management programs to create multi-purpose public health cadres.
- Addressing shortage of adequately trained health workforce through integration.
Preparedness for Climate Events
- Health systems must plan for increased frequency and intensity of climate change-led events.
- Strengthening health systems, fostering coordination, and improving preparedness essential.
- As climate events intensify, addressing health challenges becomes crucial.
- Strengthening health systems, coordination, and adaptation are key to tackling water and vector-borne diseases effectively.
What is the Jan Vishwas Bill, 2023 proposed by Centre?
Context: The Jan Vishwas Bill, introduced by Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal, has been recently passed in Parliament.
Relevance: GS Paper – 2 Government Policies & Interventions
- The primary goal of the Bill is to enhance ease of living and ease of doing business in India.
- The Bill proposes amendments to decriminalize 183 provisions within 42 Central Acts governed by 19 Ministries/Departments.
Scope and Purpose of the Jan Vishwas Bill
- The Jan Vishwas (Amendment of Provisions) Bill, 2022 aims to amend laws across various sectors, including agriculture, environment, media and publication, and health.
- The Bill seeks to convert fines into penalties, thereby avoiding the need for court prosecution for administering punishments.
- It eliminates imprisonment as a punishment for numerous offenses.
Specific Changes and Controversies
- The Bill affects laws such as the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, and the Pharmacy Act, 1948.
- The proposed changes to the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 have triggered heated debates, particularly within the healthcare community, pharmacy experts, and patient-welfare groups.
- The Drugs and Cosmetics Act currently categorizes offenses related to adulterated drugs, spurious drugs, mislabeled drugs, and Not of Standard Quality drugs (NSQs) and prescribes penalties based on the severity of the offense.
Pros and Cons of the Amendments
- Advocates for the amendments argue that they streamline regulations, eliminate unnecessary penalties, and promote ease of doing business.
- Supporters claim the amendments will benefit the pharmaceutical industry and encourage responsible growth.
- Health activists and experts express concerns about the potential negative impacts on public health.
- Critics argue that the Bill allows manufacturers of NSQ drugs to escape significant penalties, even though such drugs could harm patients.
- Reduction of penalties for pharmacy owners violating licensing terms is also criticized, as it might undermine accountability.
Government’s Justification for the Bill
- The government’s argument is that the pharmaceutical sector needs regulatory rationalization to ensure quality medicines while fostering business growth.
- The Health Minister asserts that the amendments aim to eliminate barriers and promote balanced benefits for both businesses and the public.
- The Jan Vishwas (Amendment of Provisions) Bill, 2023, introduces amendments to numerous laws with the goal of improving ease of living and doing business.
- The Bill’s impact on public health, particularly within the pharmaceutical sector, remains a subject of intense debate, with arguments for both its benefits and potential risks.
More students using smartphones for entertainment than study: survey
Context: A survey conducted across 21 Indian states involved 6,229 parents of schoolchildren aged 6 to 16 in rural areas.
Relevance: GS 2 Education
- The survey aimed to understand smartphone usage patterns and its impact on education.
Smartphone Usage for Entertainment vs. Studies
- The “State of Elementary Education in Rural India” report released by Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan presented survey results.
- 49.3% of rural students have access to smartphones.
- Among parents whose children have access to gadgets, 76.7% mentioned that their children primarily use smartphones for playing video games.
- 56.6% use smartphones for downloading and watching movies, while 47.3% use them for downloading and listening to music.
- Only 34% use smartphones for downloading study material, and 18% access online learning through tutorials.
Demographics and Participation
- The surveyed parents included those with school-going children (6,135), children who dropped out of school (56), and children who had never enrolled (38).
- Around 78% of parents of girls and 82% of parents of boys aspire for their children to graduate or achieve higher education levels.
- Students in higher classes (Class 8 and above) have greater smartphone access (58.32%), while even students in lower classes (Classes 1 to 3) have access (42.1%).
- Around 40% of parents stated that age-appropriate reading materials, beyond textbooks, are available at home.
Parental Involvement in Education
- Only 40% of parents engage in daily conversations with their children about their school learning, and 32% have such conversations a few days a week.
- Approximately 84% of parents regularly attend parent-teacher meetings at school.
- Reasons for parents not attending meetings include short notice and a lack of willingness.
Reasons for Dropping Out of School
- A subset of 56 respondents provided reasons for children dropping out of school.
- For girls, 36.8% of parents mentioned that their daughters dropped out to contribute to family earnings.
- 31.6% of parents indicated their child’s lack of interest in studies as a reason for dropping out.
- 21.1% believed that their daughters had to take care of household chores and siblings.
- For boys, lack of interest in studies was the primary reason for dropping out (71.8%), followed by the need to contribute to family earnings (48.7%).
- The survey highlights that smartphone usage for entertainment overshadows educational use.
- Parental involvement in educational discussions varies, and reasons for dropping out of school differ for boys and girls.
- These findings underscore the need for focused efforts to enhance educational engagement and digital literacy in rural areas.
Should Constitution be amended to make Article 370 permanent, asks CJI
Context: In the framework of constitutional democracies, the role of public opinion is a topic of crucial importance, reflecting the essence of governance and decision-making.
Relevance: GS -2 Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.
Importance of Established Institutions
- Constitutional democracies like India rely on established institutions such as Parliament to gauge public opinions on various matters.
- Unlike instances such as the Brexit referendum, where public opinion was sought despite a lack of specific constitutional provisions, the Indian approach differs in its reliance on institutional processes.
Balancing Political Decisions and Public Will
- A key element of a constitutional democracy is the alignment of political decisions with constitutional frameworks.
- In such democracies, the process of seeking public opinions occurs within the confines of established structures, which ensures accountability and adherence to constitutional norms.
Comparing Constitutional Democracies
- While some nations, like the UK with the Brexit scenario, might engage in public referendums, these situations are contextual and often rely on political decisions.
- In contrast, countries like India emphasize engaging public opinions through parliamentary mechanisms and established bodies.
Dilution of Constitutional Provisions
- Constitutional provisions may undergo changes or amendments over time. However, the process varies significantly based on the constitutional framework.
- Dilution of provisions, especially those tied to specific regions or rights, often raises debates about the balance between centralized governance and regional aspirations.
Public Interest and Consent
- Ensuring that public interests are represented in decisions is a cornerstone of democratic governance.
- The consent of citizens, particularly in matters affecting specific regions or communities, becomes a significant aspect in the formulation and execution of policies.
Complex Nature of Constitutional Amendments
- Discussions surrounding the permanence or change of constitutional provisions are complex and require comprehensive analysis.
- Deciding whether a particular provision has assumed a permanent character often involves legal interpretations, historical context, and contemporary needs.
- Constitutional democracies embody a delicate balance between political decision-making and representing public will.
- While situations like the Brexit referendum may arise in some contexts, the reliance on established institutions to engage public opinions remains a defining characteristic of constitutional democracies.
- The dynamic between public sentiment and constitutional provisions underscores the evolving nature of governance in modern societies.
The grammar of commerce in a new age of geopolitics
Context: The recognition of India as an appealing trading partner, coupled with its potential as a large market, has been evident since countries began establishing currency swap arrangements in 2018.
Relevance: GS 3 Economy
- The changing landscape of international transactions and the utilization of the Indian rupee for such purposes reflects the evolving dynamics of global trade.
Unforeseen Use of the Indian Rupee
- The ongoing Ukraine-Russia conflict in 2022 led to unforeseen consequences for international transactions.
- Sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union on Russia prompted both Russia and India to seek alternative routes for payment settlement.
- This situation compelled India and Russia to use the Indian rupee in trade transactions between the two countries.
Payment Mechanism and Trade Settlement
- Payments between India and Russia are now routed through Rupee Vostro accounts in Russian banks, managed by authorized dealer banks in India.
- Indian importers pay rupees to the Rupee Vostro account through authorized Indian banks, facilitating settlements with Russian suppliers.
- The arrangement covers payments for items like mineral fuels, crude oil, and defense systems.
- Exports from India can also be settled in rupees from the same Vostro account in Russia.
Challenges in Payment Settlement
- The trade surplus of Russia posed challenges in meeting payment settlements.
- Russia was reluctant to hold more Indian rupees due to concerns about its global ranking and potential depreciation.
- The options for payment settlement were limited due to sanctions on the dollar and Euro, and the volatility of the Russian ruble.
Shift in Payment Mechanisms
- Some Indian refiners have opted to settle payments for Russian oil imports using the Chinese yuan, an approach acceptable to Russia.
- This is in line with Russia’s acceptance of yuan payments for its oil exports to China.
Historical Bilateral Trade Arrangements
- Similar bilateral trade and clearing arrangements were initiated by India in the 1950s, particularly with the former Soviet Union.
- Bilateral trading arrangements utilized the rupee for merchandise and credit-related transactions between India and the Soviet Union.
Geo-Economic Shift and Local Currency Transactions
- The present scenario reflects a geoeconomic shift as countries like India, Russia, China, the UAE, and Indonesia opt for local currency transactions.
- Such transactions aim to avoid reliance on hegemonic currencies from advanced economies and reduce exposure to international institutions.
- This shift signals the emergence of a new financial architecture in which southern countries trade and settle payments among themselves using their local currencies.
- Geoeconomics may surpass geopolitics as economic interests drive cooperation and currency exchanges.
- The use of local currencies for international transactions signifies a significant shift in global trade dynamics.
- The transition towards local currency transactions among southern countries indicates a changing financial architecture, potentially challenging the dominance of currencies from northern economies.
- The balance between economic interests and geopolitical considerations will shape the future of these arrangements, potentially reshaping the global financial landscape.
What is Fitch’s downgrade of the U.S. about?
Context: On August 1, Fitch, a prominent rating agency, downgraded the credit rating of the United States from ‘AAA’ to ‘AA+’.
- This marks the first major downgrade for the U.S. since a similar action taken by Standard & Poor’s in 2011.
Credit Rating and Significance
- Rating agencies assess the financial capability and creditworthiness of countries, regions, institutions, or organizations.
- The credit rating scale ranges from ‘AAA’ (highest rating) to ‘D’ (lowest rating), indicating the entity’s ability to meet payment obligations.
Concerns Raised by Fitch
- Deterioration in Governance: Fitch observed a decline in governance standards over two decades, particularly in fiscal and debt matters.
- Lack of Medium-Term Fiscal Framework: Unlike peers, the U.S. lacks a medium-term fiscal framework, resulting in a complex budgeting process and successive debt increases.
- Repetitive Debt-Limit Standoffs: Repeated debt-limit political standoffs and last-minute resolutions have eroded confidence in fiscal management.