May 2018
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Cabinet nods to amend law for speedy disposal of commercial disputes: Law Min

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Ease of doing business

Mains level: Aim of the ordinance.


News

Ordinance on commercial disputes

  1. The government has approved an ordinance to amend a law for faster disposal of commercial disputes
  2. The ordinance will amend the Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts Act

Aim of the ordinance

  1. Government is seeking to improve India’s ranking in the ease of doing business index

What about the pending bill?

  1. The proposed ordinance will replace the pending bill
  2. It would bring down the time taken from the present 1,445 days in resolution of commercial disputes of lesser value

Back2basics

Ease of doing business index

  1. Economies are ranked on their ease of doing business, from 1–190. A high ease of doing business ranking means the regulatory environment is more conducive to the starting and operation of a local firm
  2. The rankings are determined by sorting the aggregate distance to frontier scores on 10 topics, each consisting of several indicators, giving equal weight to each topic
  3. The rankings for all economies are benchmarked to June 2017
Industrial Sector Updates – Industrial Policy, Ease of Doing Business, etc.

[op-ed snap] Delivering the goods: GST revenue increase

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: E-way bills, etc.(read the attached story)

Mains level: GST revenue increase suggests the indirect tax regime is overcoming teething problems. The newscard discusses possible reasons behind this increase and suggests some solutions for further boost in the collection.


News

Highest(single month) collection from the GST

  1. Collections from the Goods and Services Tax crossed the Rs. 1 lakh crore mark in April
  2. To be precise, the total revenue from the new indirect tax in April was Rs. 1,03,458 crore, the highest recorded in a single month since its implementation in July 2017

The number of  GST-payers has increased

  1. Ddata released suggest the number of registered tax-payers filing GST returns by the specified deadline has risen from 57% for July to nearly 63% for March
  2. Suggestion: Further simplification of the returns must be expedited to improve compliance

Is it really the “confirmation of increased economic activity”?

  1. Though it referred to the record GST collections as a sign of an upswing in the economy
  2. But the government, to be fair, also stressed that this number may be driven by the human tendency to wrap up pending official dues at the last moment
    (which in this case is the last month of the financial year)
  3. Yet, even delayed compliance is a welcome ‘new normal’

The GST collection is satisying

  1. It is true that the revenue influx in April cannot be taken as a firm trend for the future
  2. But given the issues the GST caused in its initial months and the fear of high evasion levels that gripped officials when revenues tumbled after three months of Rs. 90,000 crore-plus collections,
  3. it is fair to say that the new tax system has ended its first three quarters on a robust note

The average monthly collection is also satisfying

  1. The average monthly collection has gone from Rs. 89,885 crore in the first eight months to over Rs. 91,300 crore
  2. This number is important, as the new regime needed to deliver about Rs. 91,000 crore a month to ensure that revenues lost by the Centre and the States under the earlier indirect tax system are covered

Efforts done to boost the GST collections

  1. Fresh anti-evasion measures introduced in the past few weeks, such as the e-way billing to track movement of goods, could plug leakages to some extent
  2. The government is keen to start matching tax credits claimed by businesses for inputs from suppliers
  3. These efforts should boost GST revenues in the new financial year
Goods and Services Tax (GST)

Unbranded generics, ‘orphan drugs’ may go out of price control

Note4Students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  Drug (Prices Control) Order, 2013, Definition of Orphan Drug, Unbranded drugs, Rare Diseases

Mains level:  National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA)’s concerns over dilution of its power


News

Draft Pharma Policy, 2017

  1. It proposed changes by the department of pharmaceuticals (DoP) for conferring absolute powers to itself for:
  • creating the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) and deciding which drugs should be excluded from price control;
  • bringing all strengths and dosages of specified drugs under price control;
  • doing away with the “retail price” and having only the “ceiling price” for non-scheduled products, thereby expanding its span of control

Suggestions in the policy

  1. The policy suggests that NPPA be assisted for pricing by the advisory body with doctors, pharmacists, civil society representatives, industry representatives and government representatives as its members
  2. It suggests creating appellate against the decisions of NPPA with the higher judiciary
  3. However, NPPA sought it as dilution of its authority
  4. It argued that Drugs are not commodities, given statutory status to NPPA under the new affordable healthcare Act

What is NITI Aayog’s proposal?

  1. Along with restructuring NPPA, the Central government is considering giving itself powers to exempt ‘orphan drugs and unbranded generic drugs from price control
  2. Currently, Para 32 of the Drug (Prices Control) Order, 2013, gives the power to NPPA to exempt a certain class of drugs from price control
  3. The government is currently discussing a NITI Aayog proposal, to amend Para 32 to add orphan drugs, unbranded generic drugs and any other drugs decided by the proposed Standing Committee on Affordable Medicines and Health Products.
  4. This proposal is likely to be implemented whenever NPPA is restructured.

Objections by NPPA

  1. The Central government is likely to form a Standing Committee on Affordable Medicines and Health Products which will consist of its officials only
  2. This committee may be given the powers to exempt certain drugs from price control through amended DPCO who is privy to the discussions.
  3. The proposal to exempt “orphan drugs” from price control runs counter to the NPTRD submitted in the Delhi High Court in May 2017
  4. The policy itself was an outcome of orders passed by the Court in cases filed by patients struggling to access highly priced drugs
  5. As a result, the chief policy recommendation was setting up of a 100 crore corpus for funding treatment of rare genetic diseases between the center and states, which is still not functional.
  6. The NITI Aayog is proposing that these very same treatments may be exempted from price control, which undermines and endangers the purpose of affordable healthcare.

Back2Basics

Drug Price Control Orders (DPCO)

  1. DPCO are issued by the DoP under Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers, in the exercise of the powers conferred under section 3 of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955.
  2. This enables the Government to declare a ceiling price for essential and life-saving medicines and ensure that these medicines are available at a reasonable price to the general public.
  3. The latest DPCO was issued in 2013.

What are Orphan drugs?

  1. The National Policy for Treatment of Rare Diseases (NPTRD), 2017 defines Orphan Drugs as the very expensive drugs used to treat rare diseases.
  2. As the number of persons suffering from rare diseases is very small, the pharmaceutical companies do not find it viable to develop and sell drugs for them. Therefore, these drugs are called ‘orphan drugs’.
  3. Pharma companies do so to recoup the cost of research and development.

What are Unbranded Generic drugs?

  1. The unbranded generic drugs may be exempted from price control because it is important to give an incentive to drug manufacturers to produce more and more unbranded generics.
  2. Unbranded generic drugs are comparatively cheaper than branded ones.
  3. Currently, most of the drugs sold in India are branded generic drugs.
  4. When Paracetamol is sold under the brand name ‘Calpol’ or ‘Crocin’, it is called a branded generic drug. But when it is sold as ‘paracetamol’ itself, it is called an unbranded generic drug.

What are Rare Diseases?

  1. India does not have a definition of rare disease. However, World Health Organization (WHO) defines rare disease as often debilitating lifelong disease or disorder condition with a prevalence of 1 or less, per 1,000 population.
  2. Some common rare diseases are Haemophilia, Pompe disease, Thalassemia, Sickle-cell Anaemia and Gaucher’s disease
  3. India has recorded 450 of such rare diseases, according to the NPTRD 2017
Pharma Sector – Drug Pricing, NPPA, FDC, Generics, etc.

[op-ed snap] Protect patents: on revoking Monsanto’s Bollgard-2 patent

Note4Students

Mains Paper 3: Issues relating to intellectual property rights

Prelims Level: Bt Cotton, Cry2Ab Gene, Pink Bollworm Issue

Mains Level: Patenting issues in India


Context

Rejection of patent

  1. The Delhi High Court (HC) judgment revoking Monsanto’s Bollgard-2 patent is fraught with problems
  2. Bollgard-2 is an insecticidal technology which uses a gene called Cry2Ab from the soil bacterium Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt)
  3. When inserted into a cotton plant, the gene confers resistance against cotton pests

Why did the Delhi HC reject this patent?

  1. The court reasoned that Monsanto’s Bt gene was useless to farmers unless inserted into a cotton hybrid, which farmers could then grow to repel pests
  2. This insertion is carried out by seed companies, who cross a Bt gene-containing plant (from Monsanto’s donor seeds) with their proprietary cotton varieties
  3. The court argued that this crossing (hybridization) of plants was a natural and biological process

What is the trouble with the judgment?

  1. The insertion of the modified gene into cotton seeds by Monsanto cannot be termed as a natural biological process
  2. The judgment appears to have misled by a step involving human intervention involving in a biological process
  3. Such judgment discourages research in agri-biotech industry

Way forward

  1. Transgenic technologies such as Bt cotton are an important part of India’s cotton production arsenal
  2. The important thing for India is to keep incentivizing the development of such technologies and to use them properly
  3. Strong patent protection is a crucial part of this process

Back2Basics

Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt)

  1. It is a soil-dwelling bacterium, commonly used as a biological pesticide
  2. It occurs naturally in the gut of caterpillars of various types of moths and butterflies plant leaves etc.
  3. Bt produces insecticidal action when used in the genetic modification of crops
  4. Bt cotton was the first genetically modified crop to be approved for cultivation in India in 2002, with the introduction of Monsanto’s GM cotton seeds
  5. Other Bt crops used in India: Bt Brinjal, Bt/GM Mustard
  6. Issues with Bt modified crops:  Costly seeds, Gene pool contamination,  Increasing incidence of pest resistance, the toxicity of food crops etc
Intellectual Property Rights in India

North India has the foulest air in the world, says the WHO — this is why

Note4Students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the WHO report

Mains level: Delhi’s air pollution crisis

Mains 2015- Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata are the three mega cities of the country but the air pollution is much more serious problem in Delhi as compared to the other two. Why is this so?


News

14 of the 15 highly polluted cities are in India

  1. A new global report on air pollution by the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that 14 of the 15 cities with the highest levels of PM 2.5 pollutants in 2016 were in India
  2. These 14 towns and cities of northern India are stretching west to east from Jodhpur (No. 14) in Rajasthan to Gaya (No. 4), Patna (No. 5), and Muzaffarpur (No. 9) in Bihar
  3. Effectively then, the new WHO report identifies the Indo-Gangetic plain, along with Rajasthan and the Kashmir Valley, as having the worst air in the world

Why more pollution over Gangetic Plains?

  1. The Gangetic plains are like an enormous valley, trapped between the Himalayas in the north and the Vindhyas in the south, from where pollutants are unable to disperse very far.
  2. This region is land-locked — pollution cannot dissipate quickly — and does not have the advantage of the coast like Mumbai or Chennai.
  3. This region is one of the most densely populated in the world and the demand for energy sources, and the consequent burning of fuels is extremely high. This would release a large number of pollutants and particulate matter in the air.
  4. Also, a lot of the smaller cities in this region have poor waste management, there is a lot of burning, solid fuel use, they are moving from non-motorised to motorized transport.
  5. In this region, wind predominantly blows from north-west to east for most of the year carrying along with it pollutants generated elsewhere.
  6. The high levels of humidity in this region are very conducive to the formation of secondary aerosols. Water facilitates the reaction between the emitted gases whose molecules form clusters and slowly nucleate into particulate matters (PM)
  7. Stubble burning in NW India is also a major cause.
Air Pollution

[pib] WHO Framework Convention on tobacco control

News :

  • The Union Cabinet Chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given approval to accede to the Protocol under World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on tobacco control to eliminate illicit trade in tobacco products.
  • It will be applicable to both smoking and chewing or smokeless tobacco (SLT) forms as negotiated and adopted under Article 15 of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). 
  • India is a party to WHO FCTC.
  • The protocol lays down obligations of the parties. It spells out supply chain control measures that must be adopted by the parties.
  • Elimination of illicit trade in tobacco products through strengthened regulation will help in strengthening comprehensive tobacco control, leading to reduction in tobacco use which in turn, will result in reduction in disease burden and mortality associated with tobacco use.

Background:

  • The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) is the first international public health treaty negotiated under the auspices of the WHO.
  • The objective of FCTC is to provide a framework for supply and demand reduction measures for tobacco control at the national, regional and global levels.
  • One of the key tobacco supply reduction strategies contained in Article 15 of WHO FCTC envisages elimination of all forms of illicit trade and tobacco products, including smuggling, illicit manufacturing and counterfeiting. 

Impact:

  • Elimination of illicit trade in tobacco products through strengthened regulation will help in strengthening comprehensive tobacco control, leading to reduction in tobacco use which in turn, will result in reduction in disease burden and mortality associated with tobacco use.
  • Accession to such treaty will provide actionable alternatives against such prevailing practices that are affecting public health at large.
  • India, being at the forefront of tobacco control, would be able to influence the international organizations including World Custom Organization in controlling such illicit trade.
  • The protocol to eliminate illicit trade in tobacco products is a path breaking initiative in strengthening global action against tobacco and is also a new legal instrument in public health. It is a comprehensive tool to counter and eventually eliminate illicit trade in tobacco products and to strengthen legal dimensions for international health cooperation

 

 

 

 

 

[pib] 4th Regional Conference on Futuristic, Resilient and Digital Infrastructure

News :

Related Ministry/Department: The Ministry of Finance

  • The 2-day Conference is a lead-up to the 3rd Annual Meeting of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to be hosted by the Government of India on 25th and 26th June 2018 in Mumbai.
  • The Ministry of Finance, Government of India in collaboration with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS) organized the 4th Regional Conference on Futuristic, Resilient and Digital Infrastructure in Bengaluru.
  • Experts give thrust to Optimal Balance between Agronomization and Urbanization to Maximize Productivity.

Asian Infrastructure Investment bank (AIIB)

  • The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is an international financial institution which targets infrastructural development in the Asia Pacific.
  • Promoted by the government of China, the bank is backed by 37 regional and 20 non-regional Prospective Founding Members who have unanimously signed the Article of Agreement upon which the bank would function.

 

 

 

 

Govt. doubles PMVVY pension investment limit to ₹ 15 lakh; extends scheme by two years

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre & States & the performance of these schemes

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana (PMVVY)

Mains level: Condition of elderly persons and need for care and rehabilitation


News

Extending subscription and investment limit

  1. The government has doubled the investment limit to ₹ 15 lakh under the Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana (PMVVY) pension scheme
  2. It has also extended the subscription period by two years
  3. The move will enable up to ₹ 10,000 pension per month for the senior citizen

Back2Basics

Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana (PMVVY)

  1. The government has launched the PMVVY to provide social security during old age and to protect elderly persons aged 60 and above against a future fall in their interest income due to uncertain market conditions
  2. The PMVVY is being implemented through Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC)
  3. The scheme provides an assured pension based on a guaranteed rate of return of 8 percent per annum for ten years, with an option to opt for the pension on a monthly, quarterly, half-yearly or annual basis
  4. The difference between the return generated by LIC and the assured return of 8 percent annually will be borne by the government of as a yearly subsidy

Policy for domestic workers ready

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies & interventions for development in various sectors & issues arising out of their design & implementation

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: National policy for domestic workers

Mains level: Working conditions of domestic workers and measures taken to improve them


News

National policy for domestic workers

  1. The draft national policy for domestic workers would make recommendations on working hours, leave entitlements and minimum wages, but would leave it to states to notify them in accordance with their existing legislations
  2. It is likely to be announced this month

Proposed provisions

  1. Boards of registration could be set up at state, district, or even Resident Welfare Association (RWA) level
  2. These boards would administer social security benefits for workers, including Provident Fund contribution by employers and medical insurance
  3. The draft policy envisages that states would set up mechanisms to register and regulate placement agencies for domestic workers, with no provision for Central regulation
Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

Army’s ‘Vijay Prahar’ exercise underway in Rajasthan

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Security challenges and their management in border areas

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Vijay Prahar and Gagan Shakti.

Mains level: Aim of the exercise.


News

‘Vijay Prahar’

  1. Over 20,000 troops of the strike formations of the Army’s South Western Commandare engaged in the “Vijay Prahar” exercise near Suratgarhin Rajasthan
  2. The exercise is being held in the wake of the IAF testing its might in the “Gagan Shakti” exercise in the western sector of Rajasthan
  3. During the exercise, the formations are practising and operationalising certain concepts of operating in the (a) network-centric environment, (b) integrated employment of modern-day sensors with the weapon platforms, (c) employment of attack helicopters in the air cavalry role and (d) a bold offensive of application of the Special Forces

Aim of the exercise

  1. To fine-tune the Army’s jointmanship with the Indian Air Force(IAF)
  2. The IAF carried out the Gagan Shakti exercise and demonstrated its capabilities and strength
  3. In the immediate wake of Gagan Shakti, this exercise is being held for testing and refining army’s jointmanship and maximising the impact of the joint operations
Indian Army Updates

[op-ed snap] Call to action: The air pollution crisis in India

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana scheme

Mains level: The newscard briefly discusses the recent report released(on air pollution) by the WHO.


News

WHO report on air pollution

  1. It highlights not only how widespread air pollution is in urban India, but also how deficient air quality monitoring is
  2. The report ranks 14 Indian cities among the 20 most polluted ones globally
    (it summarised 2016 data for 4,300 cities)
  3. While Delhi comes in at number six, Kanpur, Faridabad, Varanasi, Gaya and Patna are ranked ahead of it, by PM 2.5 levels
  4. The outcome of this exercise makes it clear that air pollution is not a problem of large metropolises alone

Effects of air pollution

  1. The report puts the global death toll from air pollution at seven million a year, attributable to illnesses such as lung cancer, pneumonia and ischemic heart disease
  2. In 2016 alone, it says, around 4.2 million people died owing to outdoor air pollution, while 3.8 million people succumbed to dirty cooking fuels such as wood and cow dung
  3. About a third of these deaths occurred in Southeast Asian countries, which include India

Praise for India’s Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana scheme(in the report)

  1. It has provided 37 million women living below the poverty line with LPG connections
  2. Such schemes will also help cut the indoor air pollution that plagues much of rural India, which is not covered in the WHO analysis

Pollution levels in rural India

  1. The recently published draft National Clean Air Programme noted, there are currently no air pollution monitoring stations in rural India
  2. This does not mean outdoor air pollution is not a problem here. Studies have shown that ozone levels are higher in rural areas, as is pollution from insecticide use and crop-burning

The way forward

  1. The WHO has asked Southeast Asian countries to take swift action to tackle the twin problems of indoor and outdoor pollution
  2. India must realise that its problems are larger than the WHO estimates, and take the call to action seriously

Back2basics

Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana scheme

  1. It is a scheme launched by the Central Government on May 1, 2016 with the aim of bringing happiness to the faces of women of poor families of India
  2. Under this scheme, poor women will get free LPG gas connections
  3. This scheme started by the Central Government will give the poor women the freedom soon to get the clay stove
  4. The main objective of this scheme is to promote the use of LPG instead of fossil fuels used for cooking in rural areas
  5. One of the main objectives of the scheme is to promote women’s empowerment and protect their health
  6. To provide free LPG connections to the women members of the poor family, the Cabinet has approved a plan of Rs.8000 crore
Air Pollution