BRICS decides to include six new members
Context: BRICS members have made a significant decision to expand the grouping by including six new countries.
Relevance: GS -2 Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
- The announcement was made at the conclusion of the 15th BRICS summit held in Johannesburg.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi revealed the expansion plan, stating that this move would reinforce the grouping and promote confidence in the concept of a multipolar world order.
- The decision of expansion aims to strengthen the organization and inject new dynamism and energy into its actions.
New Members and Significance:
- Argentina, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, and the United Arab Emirates are the six new countries joining BRICS.
- Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE hold special significance as they represent both sides of the energy-rich Gulf within BRICS.
- Iran and Saudi Arabia’s simultaneous entry marks a notable diplomatic decision, coming after the normalization of relations in April.
- The expansion decision was reached based on agreed guiding principles, standards, criteria, and procedures.
BRICS Evolution and Purpose:
- BRICS was originally formed with Brazil, Russia, India, and China, envisioned as a global-level alliance of major economies contributing to the post-Cold War world order.
- The last expansion took place 13 years ago with the inclusion of South Africa in 2010.
PM Modi’s Engagements and Initiatives:
- Prime Minister Modi engaged in bilateral meetings with leaders from Senegal, Mozambique, Ethiopia, and Iran.
- During the BRICS-Africa Outreach and BRICS Plus dialogue session, Modi invited participating countries to join various initiatives such as the International Solar Alliance, One Sun, One World, One Grid, Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, One Earth, One Health, Big Cat Alliance, and Global Centre for Traditional Medicine.
Commitment to Multilateralism and Peace:
- BRICS members reiterated their commitment to inclusive multilateralism and the upholding of international law, including principles outlined in the United Nations Charter.
- The statement also highlighted concerns about ongoing conflicts globally and stressed a dedication to resolving differences and disputes through dialogue and inclusive consultation.
Ministry suspends order mandating doctors prescribe only generic drugs
Context: The National Medical Commission (NMC) and the Indian Medical Association (IMA) have resolved a half-month-long standoff.
Relevance: GS -2 Health
- The conflict was centered around a provision in the NMC’s notification that required registered medical practitioners (RMPs) to prescribe only generic medicines.
- The Health Ministry has suspended the proposed regulations, allowing both parties time to reach an agreement.
- The NMC stated that the “NMC Registered Medical Practitioner (Professional Conduct) regulations, 2023” are held in abeyance until further notifications.
NMC’s Rationale for Generic Medicines:
- The NMC’s notification aimed to address the high out-of-pocket spending on medication.
- Generic medicines are 30% to 80% cheaper than branded drugs, potentially reducing healthcare costs and improving access to quality care.
Challenges and Arguments Against Generic Prescription:
- The IMA had raised concerns about the quality of generic medicines impacting patient health and treatment.
- Doctors and healthcare professionals argued that generic drugs’ quality control, storage, distribution, and dispensation are not uniform in India.
- Pharmacists/chemists were not obligated to provide generic drugs even if prescribed by doctors.
- Some argued that prescribing combination drugs through generics might not be feasible.
Quality and Bioavailability Concerns:
- Critics pointed out the lack of assurance in the bioavailability of generic drugs due to inadequate quality control and clinical trials.
- The quality difference between branded and generic drugs produced by the same company was highlighted.
- Doctors were concerned about complications and the potential loss of control over ailments and diseases when switching to generic drugs.
NMC’s Prescription Rules:
- NMC listed guidelines for prescribing drugs, emphasizing generic, non-proprietary, pharmacological names.
- Exceptions were made for drugs with a narrow therapeutic index, biosimilars, and other specific cases.
- The notification recommended rational and optimal drug prescribing and avoidance of unnecessary medications.
Affordability and Quality Balance:
- The Health Ministry of India maintained a commitment to affordable, high-quality drugs while supplying a significant portion of the world’s vaccine needs and generic exports.
- Opinions varied on whether the strict approach of NMC could successfully untangle deep-rooted ties between doctors and the drug industry.
- The standoff between NMC and IMA has been temporarily resolved with the suspension of the generic-only prescription requirement.
- The dispute raised concerns about the quality and feasibility of prescribing generic drugs, despite the potential cost-saving benefits.
India and the Northern Sea Route
Context: Murmansk, popularly called the capital of the Arctic region and the beginning point of the Northern Sea Route (NSR), is witnessing the rising trend of Indian involvement in cargo traffic.
Relevance: GS Paper – 1 and 2
Murmansk and Indian Engagement in Arctic Cargo:
- Murmansk, known as the Arctic capital and the start of the Northern Sea Route (NSR), sees increasing Indian involvement in cargo traffic.
- India handled 35% of the eight million tonnes of cargo at Murmansk port in the first seven months of 2023.
- The NSR’s significance to India arises from climate changes impacting economic and water security.
- The Arctic is home to unexplored hydrocarbon resources, holding over 40% of the global oil and gas reserves.
- India’s engagement with the Arctic dates back to the Svalbard Treaty in 1920 and includes various scientific studies and research efforts.
Northern Sea Route (NSR) and Russia’s Role:
- The NSR is the shortest route for freight transportation between Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, spanning Arctic seas.
- Russia ensures safe navigation along the NSR with nuclear-powered icebreakers.
- Russia has a nuclear icebreaker fleet, with seven in operation and more planned by 2027.
- Cargo traffic along the NSR has been rapidly growing (around 73% during 2018-2022).
India’s Interest in NSR Development:
- Cargo growth, energy supply, and geographical positioning drive India’s interest in NSR.
- The Chennai-Vladivostok Maritime Corridor (CVMC) project aims to link with NSR for efficient container transit.
- CVMC, a 10,500 km corridor, would significantly reduce transport time compared to existing routes.
- India’s economic and trade interests, including importing energy resources, are tied to the NSR.
Geopolitical and Collective Influence Concerns:
- Discussions on the possibility of China and Russia gaining collective influence over the NSR are ongoing.
NSR Development Plans and India’s Involvement:
- Russia’s NSR development plan targets 80 million tonnes and 150 million tonnes of cargo traffic for 2024 and 2030, respectively.
- A Russian delegation engaged with the Indian business community to promote NSR-related projects.
- Rosatom seeks Indian company participation in NSR projects.
- The CVMC project, aiming to link with NSR, involves workshops and stakeholder engagement from India and Russia.
Should the CJI be part of the committee selecting the CEC?
Context: The Union government introduced a Bill proposing changes to the selection panel for appointing the Election Commission (EC) members.
Relevance: GS Paper – 2 Constitutional Bodies Transparency & Accountability
- The new panel includes the Prime Minister (chairperson), the Leader of the Opposition (member), and a Union Cabinet Minister nominated by the Prime Minister (member).
- This replaces the previous Supreme Court suggestion of including the Chief Justice of India (CJI) until a new law is enacted.
- Concerns have been raised about the neutrality and independence of the panel with two members from the ruling party.
Neutrality of the Selection Panel:
- There is a concern about whether the new composition of the selection panel might compromise the impartiality of the EC.
- The intention behind the EC’s composition is to ensure its autonomy and insulation from external pressures.
- The discussions revolve around striking a balance between diverse perspectives and maintaining the EC’s independence.
Potential Impact on EC Neutrality:
- Opinions on whether the proposed changes might influence the EC’s objectivity and functioning vary.
- Some argue that the previous composition served to safeguard the EC’s impartiality, while others highlight instances where the EC’s conduct has raised questions.
Bill vs. Previous Ruling:
- The proposed Bill, introduced by the government, aims to address the selection panel’s composition as laid down by a previous ruling.
- The question arises whether the Bill aligns with the spirit of the previous ruling, which emphasized the importance of maintaining the EC’s independence.
Security of Tenure for ECs:
- The Bill outlines certain aspects of the EC members’ appointment and removal process.
- There is debate about the procedure for removing EC members and whether it should be aligned with that of certain other constitutional positions.
Position of the CEC:
- The proposed Bill outlines certain changes to the rank and salary of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC).
- Discussions focus on the potential implications of altering the CEC’s status and compensation, particularly when it comes to the perception of their authority.
Implications for Election Integrity:
- The ongoing discussions touch on the broader issue of ensuring that the electoral process remains transparent, free from undue influence, and capable of upholding the democratic principles of the nation.
- The ultimate aim is to balance different viewpoints while maintaining the integrity and independence of the EC.
The real purpose of the medical college
Context: Medical Negligence Case and Dental College Vacancies: Recent incidents in Kerala highlight medical negligence and shortages in dental education.
Relevance: GS 2 Education
- Policy Proposals: Conversion of district hospitals to medical colleges and establishment of AIIMS-like institutions across states by the Union government.
- Need for Examination: The contribution of medical colleges to patient care requires evaluation from a public health perspective.
Dual Purposes of Medical Colleges
- Primary Purpose: Medical colleges primarily educate and train students for medical professions through teaching and internships.
- Role of Medical College Hospitals: State-of-the-art medical college hospitals facilitate bedside care, a crucial aspect of medical training.
Medical Care Role:
- Secondary Purpose: Medical colleges also offer medical care, secondary to their educational role.
- Patient Access: Population norms were not a primary concern during establishment; patients with referrals can access services.
Myths and Realities
Misconceptions about Medical Colleges:
- Belief in Holistic Healthcare: False assumption that a district’s medical college can fulfill all healthcare needs.
- Infrastructure and Real Estate Growth: Expectations of development near medical colleges, along with increased chances of securing medical seats.
- Overemphasis on Producing Professionals: Misguided belief that producing more medical professionals solves inadequate healthcare access.
Evidence and Healthcare Contribution
Need for Tertiary Care:
- Tertiary Care Requirement: Around 1% of the population requires advanced tertiary care annually.
- Bed Requirement: Illustration of bed needs for a medium-sized district, emphasizing specialized beds for tertiary care.
Challenges in District Hospitals:
- Poor Infrastructure: Lack of specialists and functional secondary-level care due to non-functional referral systems.
- Patient Overload: Overcrowding in higher-level facilities due to patients requiring various levels of care.
Model to Emulate:
- Successful District Hospitals: Examples of district hospitals excelling in specialized care, trauma response, and patient care.
- Focus on Secondary-Level Care: The importance of strong secondary-level care for efficient public sector curative care.
Shortcomings of Medical Colleges:
- Patient Crowding: Well-functioning medical colleges experience patient overcrowding for primary and secondary care needs.
- Treatment Warrant: Over 80% of cases treated in medical colleges don’t truly need tertiary specialty care.
- Referral System Failure: Failure to implement a referral system reflects broader issues with secondary-level care.
- Importance of Secondary-Level Care: Strengthening secondary-level curative care as a solution to address people’s healthcare needs.
- Role of Government: South Indian states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu rely on functional secondary-level facilities for public sector curative care.
Challenges and Considerations
- Popular Perception: Establishment of medical colleges as an image of advancement and technology.
- Addressing Real Problem: Policy response of medical college creation masks inadequate secondary-level healthcare provision.
Challenges in Establishment:
- Infrastructure and Connectivity: New medical colleges in poorly connected areas face setbacks, seen in new AIIMS projects.
- Shifted Priorities: Conversion of district hospitals to medical colleges shifts focus from treatment to education and research.
Conclusion: Rethinking Healthcare Strategy
- Shattering Myths: Dispelling the notion that medical colleges are the ideal solution for healthcare access.
- Strengthening Secondary-Level Care: Prioritizing this level can effectively regulate the commercial private sector catering to less complex needs.
India’s G-20 opportunity for an African Renaissance
Context: Like an absentee landlord, Africa is flagging its demands nowadays on multilateral fora such as BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), the G20 and the United Nations General Assembly.
Africa’s Challenges and International Engagement:
- Africa faces multiple challenges, including misgovernance, unplanned development, terrorism, tribal conflicts, climate change, food inflation, urbanization, and youth unemployment.
- Traditional interventions by global powers have often exacerbated these problems, as seen in military interventions and support for dictatorial regimes.
Return of Generals and Political Disorder:
- In recent years, several African countries have witnessed the return of military regimes due to complex socio-political challenges.
- The presence of military governments poses challenges to regional organizations like ECOWAS and efforts to curb military influence.
Erosion of International Support:
- African countries are facing reduced international support due to shifts in global economic trends.
- China’s changing economy and its Belt and Roads Initiative have led to unsustainable debts for some African nations.
- Russia’s interventions through groups like the Wagner Group have met with complications, and traditional colonial powers are grappling with economic downturns.
BRICS and G-20 Summits:
- Africa’s concerns are being raised in international forums like BRICS and the G-20.
- The BRICS summit in South Africa and the upcoming G-20 Summit in India are expected to address issues related to Africa’s challenges.
India’s Ties with Africa:
- India’s relations with Africa are deep and diverse, spanning historical and socio-economic ties.
- India’s engagement includes trade, investment, education, healthcare, technology, and agriculture.
- India’s hosting of the G-20 Summit presents an opportunity to leverage its comprehensive ties with Africa for mutual benefit.
India’s Role in Africa’s Renaissance:
- India can contribute to resolving Africa’s challenges through a combination of peacekeeping and socio-political institution building.
- By offering investments, innovations like the JAM trinity, and targeted interventions, India can present an alternative that is less exploitative and more participative.
- India’s approach could create a win-win paradigm for both India and Africa in the 21st century.
Chandrayaan mission a key milestone in ISRO’s journey: Kasturirangan
The eyes and ears of Pragyan that guide it through lunar surface
Context: The successful Chandrayaan-3 mission has highlighted the potential of using the moon as a launchpad for future planetary missions and has enhanced India’s capabilities for futuristic explorations.
Relevance: GS -3 Space
Soft-Landing and Maneuverability:
- Mr. Kasturirangan praised the soft-landing achievement of Chandrayaan-3 and its ability to maneuver after landing, which enables the exploration of the lunar surface and its surroundings.
- These capabilities showcase the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) “total capability.”
Key Milestone for ISRO:
- Chandrayaan-3 marks a crucial milestone in ISRO’s journey over the past 50 years.
- It demonstrates ISRO’s capability to land a spacecraft on a celestial body outside of Earth, showcasing its prowess in space exploration.
Exploration of Moon’s South Pole:
- The significance of exploring the moon’s South Pole lies in the unique conditions it offers.
- Limited sunlight and the moon’s lack of significant evolution for two billion years make the South Pole region pristine and suitable for studying its history.
- The absence of other kinds of radiations in this region provides valuable insights into almost two billion years of uninterrupted existence.
Impact of Chandrayaan-3 Mission and Cameras Developed by LEOS:
- The successful landing of Chandrayaan-3’s lander module Vikram on the moon, along with the rollout of the rover Pragyan, has not only achieved significant scientific success but has also showcased the capabilities of cameras developed by the Laboratory for Electro-Optics Systems (LEOS).
- The Lander Horizontal Velocity Camera (LHVC) on Vikram played a vital role in capturing the first image of the moon during the descent phase. Originally developed for Chandrayaan-2, the LHVC has been adapted for Chandrayaan-3.
- The LHVC’s main function is to measure the horizontal velocity during the lander’s descent. Its complex algorithm calculates the speed of the lander as it descends, providing crucial information during this phase.
- Additionally, Chandrayaan-3 features the Navigation Camera (NAVCAM), which serves as the rover Pragyan’s eyes. There are two NAVCAMs on the rover’s front, aiding in path planning and obstacle avoidance during its movement on the lunar terrain.
Chandrayaan-2’s Impact on Chandrayaan-3:
- The success of the cameras and their integration into Chandrayaan-3 is notable because these instruments were initially developed for Chandrayaan-2’s lander and rover.
- Chandrayaan-2 faced a setback when the Vikram lander lost communication and crashed on the lunar surface during its descent. However, the expertise gained from Chandrayaan-2 played a crucial role in refining and implementing these instruments in Chandrayaan-3.
ISRO’s Role in Lunar Exploration:
- As of July, there are six active lunar orbiters, and China’s Yutu-2 rover, released by Chang’e 4, is the only operating rover on the far side of the moon.
- The continued efforts of space agencies like ISRO, NASA, China, and others indicate the growing interest in lunar exploration and utilization of the moon’s resources.
- The successful development and utilization of cameras and instruments for lunar exploration showcase ISRO’s ongoing contributions to space exploration and its role in advancing scientific knowledge about the moon.
RRR bags six national awards, Gangubai Kathiawadi takes five
Context: 69th National Film Awards for 2021 announced.
Highlights from the 69th National Film Awards for the Year 2021:
- “RRR” wins 6 awards, “Gangubai Kathiawadi” wins 5.
- “Rocketry: The Nambi Effect” named best feature film.
- Allu Arjun wins best male actor for “Pushpa: The Rise-Part 1.”
- Alia Bhatt, Kriti Sanon share best female actor award.
- “The Kashmir Files” wins Nargis Dutt Award for national integration.
- Nikhil Mahajan wins best director for “Godavari (The Holy Water).”
- “RRR” gets best popular film award.
- Best playback singer awards to Kaala Bhairava, Shreya Ghoshal.
- “Gangubai Kathiawadi” wins multiple awards including best screenplay and best female actor.
- “Sardar Udham” wins in 5 categories including best Hindi film.
- Best supporting actor awards for Pankaj Tripathi, Pallavi Joshi.
- “Ek Tha Gaon” wins best non-feature film award.