[op-ed snap] Taking on TB: On new anti-tuberculosis drug

Mains Paper 2 : Health & Education |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MDR and XDR TB

Mains level : TB Elimination strategy


CONTEXT

The anti-tuberculosis drug pretomanid was recently approved by the US FDA. It will be a game-changer for treating people with extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) and those not tolerating multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) drugs available at present.

TB scenario

According to WHO, in 2017, there were an estimated 4.5 lakh people across the world with MDR-TB, of which India accounted for 24%, and about 37,500 with XDR-TB. 

Background of the new drug

    1. Pretomanid is only the third drug in the last 40 years to get FDA approval.
    2. Simpler regime – It is an all-oral, three-drug regimen of bedaquiline, pretomanid, and linezolid (BPaL).
    3. High success rate – It had a 90% cure rate in a phase III trial in South Africa; against the current treatment success rate for XDR-TB and MDR-TB at 34% and 55%, respectively.
    4. HIV – It was found to be safe and effective in curing TB in people living with HIV. 
    5. Shorter duration – Unlike 18-24 months needed to treat highly-resistant TB using nearly 20 drugs, the BPaL regimen took just six months.
    6. Effective and better tolerated – It was better tolerated and more potent in clearing the bacteria. The shorter duration is more likely to increase adherence to therapy and improve treatment outcomes. 

 

  • The need of the hour – The number of those who would need a pretomanid-based regimen is increasing due to rising drug resistance.

 

Challenges

    1. There are only a low percentage of MDR-TB cases being treated and the actual number of people who do not tolerate or respond to available MDR-TB drugs is unknown.

 

  • Affordability – It remains to be seen if it would be made affordable, in the developing countries where the burden of XDR-TB and MDR-TB is the highest. Bdaquiline’s prohibitive cost has severely restricted access in developing countries.

 

Pricing the new drug

  1. TB Alliance, a New York-based international NGO, which developed and tested the drug, has signed an exclusive licensing agreement with a generic-drug manufacturer for high-income markets.
  2. The drug will be licensed to multiple manufacturers in about 140 low- and middle-income countries, including India.
Tuberculosis Elimination Strategy

[op-ed snap] An intervention that leads to more questions

Mains Paper 2 : Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and agreements involving India |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NFU, NSG, MTCR, Australia Group, Wassenaar Arragement

Mains level : Nuclear doctrine of India


CONTEXT

Defence Minister tweeted that India’s ‘future’ commitment to a posture of No First Use of nuclear weapons ‘depends on the circumstances’

Background of NFU

  1. India is one of the two countries that adhere to a doctrine of No First Use (NFU) along with China.
  2. India has maintained that it will not strike first with nuclear weapons.
  3. But India reserves the right to retaliate to any nuclear first strike against it (or any ‘major’ use of weapons of mass destruction against Indian forces) with a nuclear strike ‘that will be massive and designed to inflict unacceptable damage’.

How it benefited us

  1. NFU simply raises the nuclear threshold in order to bring stability to a volatile environment.
  2. The adoption of the nuclear doctrine came soon after Operation Parakram (2001-02).
  3. The public adoption of the doctrine an attempt by India to restate its commitment to restraint and to being a responsible nuclear power.
  4. India used this restraint to repulse the intruders in Kargil and regain occupied land. despite India and Pakistan’s nuclear tests of 1998.
  5. It gave India the space for conventional operations and gained it sympathy in foreign capitals despite the fears of nuclear miscalculation.
  6. India’s self-proclaimed restraint brought it into the nuclear mainstream
    1. the initial application for the waiver in 2008 from the Nuclear Suppliers Group
    2. membership of the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Wassenaar Arrangement, and the Australia Group
    3. ongoing attempts to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group

Need for change in stance

  1. Revoking the commitment to NFU does not necessarily equate with abandoning restraint
  2. Many advocate a more muscular nuclear policy for India. Bharat Karnad, a member of the first National Security Advisory Board considered NFU ‘a fraud’ which would be ‘the first casualty’, if war were to break out.
Nuclear Diplomacy and Disarmament

[op-ed snap] A law for those who testify

Mains Paper 2 : Executive & Judiciary |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Witness protection in a criminal justice system


CONTEXT

Maharashtra came out with the Maharashtra Witness and Protection and Security Act 2017. However, the Centre and most other states are yet to act on the directive.

Background

  1. Supreme court gave its assent last year to the Witness Protection Scheme drafted by the Centre.
  2. The scheme was meant to be a measure in force only until the government brought out its own law on the issue.
  3. The objective of the scheme is to ensure the safety of witnesses so that they are able to give a true account of the crime without any fear of violence or criminal recrimination.

Poor implementation

  1. Though the scheme provides for police personnel to be deployed to protect the witness, it is silent on the punishment to be given to those policemen who themselves threaten the witnesses. 
  2. Criminals continue to get support from the police. The shadowy politician-police nexus is so strong that no policeman dares take any action against his ‘master’.
  3. The Witness Protection Scheme calls for more elaborate and stricter laws to be incorporated so that criminals find no loopholes that can be exploited to their advantage.

The sooner the Centre comes up with legislation codifying the protection to be given to witnesses, the better it is for India’s criminal justice system.

Judiciary Institutional Issues

Explained: Delimitation of Constituencies

Mains Paper 2 : Representation Of People's Act |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Read the attached story

Mains level : Read the attached story


News

Background

  • Since the bifurcation of J&K State into the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh, delimitation of their electoral constituencies has been inevitable.
  • While the government has not formally notified the Election Commission yet, the EC has held “internal discussions” on the J&K Reorganization Act, 2019, particularly its provisions on delimitation.

What is Delimitation? Why is it needed?

  • Delimitation is the act of redrawing boundaries of Lok Sabha and state Assembly seats to represent changes in population.
  • In this process, the number of seats allocated to different states in Lok Sabha and the total number seats in a Legislative Assembly may also change.
  • The main objective of delimitation is to provide equal representation to equal segments of a population.
  • It also aims at a fair division of geographical areas so that one political party doesn’t have an advantage over others in an election.

Legal status

  • Delimitation is carried out by an independent Delimitation Commission (DC).
  • The Constitution mandates that its orders are final and cannot be questioned before any court as it would hold up an election indefinitely.

How is delimitation carried out?

  • Under Article 82, the Parliament enacts a Delimitation Act after every Census.
  • Once the Act is in force, the Union government sets up a DC made up of a retired Supreme Court judge, the Chief Election Commissioner and the respective State Election Commissioners.
  • The Commission is supposed to determine the number and boundaries of constituencies in a way that the population of all seats, so far as practicable, is the same.
  • The Commission is also tasked with identifying seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes; these are where their population is relatively large.
  • All this is done on the basis of the latest Census and, in case of difference of opinion among members of the Commission, the opinion of the majority prevails.

Implementation

  • The draft proposals of the DC are published in the Gazette of India, official gazettes of the states concerned and at least two vernacular papers for public feedback.
  • The Commission also holds public sittings.
  • After hearing the public, it considers objections and suggestions, received in writing or orally during public sittings, and carries out changes, if any, in the draft proposal.
  • The final order is published in the Gazette of India and the State Gazette and comes into force on a date specified by the President.

How often has delimitation been done in the past?

  • The first delimitation exercise in 1950-51 was carried out by the President (with the help of the Election Commission).
  • The Constitution at that time was silent on who should undertake the division of states into Lok Sabha seats.
  • This delimitation was temporary as the Constitution mandated redrawing of boundaries after every Census. Hence, another delimitation was due after the 1951 Census.

Why more independence to DC?

  • Pointing out that the first delimitation had left many political parties and individuals unhappy, the EC advised the government that all future exercises should be carried out by an independent commission.
  • This suggestion was accepted and the DC Act was enacted in 1952.
  • DCs have been set up four times — 1952, 1963, 1973 and 2002 under the Acts of 1952, 1962, 1972 and 2002.
  • There was no delimitation after the 1981 and 1991 Censuses.

Why was there no delimitation then?

  • The Constitution mandates that the number of Lok Sabha seats allotted to a state would be such that the ratio between that number and the population of the state is, as far as practicable, the same for all states.
  • Although unintended, this provision implied that states that took little interest in population control could end up with a greater number of seats in Parliament.
  • The southern states that promoted family planning faced the possibility of having their seats reduced.
  • To allay these fears, the Constitution was amended during Indira Gandhi’s Emergency rule in 1976 to suspend delimitation until 2001.
  • Despite the embargo, there were a few occasions that called for readjustment in the number of Parliament and Assembly seats allocated to a state.
  • These include statehood attained by Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram in 1986, the creation of a Legislative Assembly for the National Capital Territory of Delhi, and creation of new states such as Uttarakhand.

Why postponed till 2026?

  • Although the freeze on the number of seats in Lok Sabha and Assemblies should have been lifted after the 2001 Census, another amendment postponed this until 2026.
  • This was justified on the ground that a uniform population growth rate would be achieved throughout the country by 2026.
  • So, the last delimitation exercise — started in July 2002 and completed on May 31, 2008 — was based on the 2001 Census and only readjusted boundaries of existing Lok Sabha and Assembly seats and reworked the number of reserved seats.

Back2Basics

History of Delimitation in J&K

  • Delimitation of J&K’s Lok Sabha seats is governed by the Indian Constitution, but delimitation of its Assembly seats (until special status was abrogated recently) was governed separately by its Constitution and J&K Representation of the People Act, 1957.
  • As far as delimitation of Lok Sabha seats is concerned, the last DC of 2002 was not entrusted with this task. Hence, J&K parliamentary seats remain as delimited on the basis of the 1971 Census.
  • As for Assembly seats, although the delimitation provisions of the J&K Constitution and the J&K RP Act, 1957, are similar to those of the Indian Constitution and Delimitation Acts.
  • They mandate a separate DC for J&K. In actual practice, the same central DC set up for other states was adopted by J&K in 1963 and 1973.
  • While the amendment of 1976 to the Indian Constitution suspended delimitation in the rest of the country till 2001, no corresponding amendment was made to the J&K Constitution.
  • Hence, unlike the rest of the country, the Assembly seats of J&K were delimited based on the 1981 Census, which formed the basis of the state elections in 1996.
  • There was no census in the state in 1991 and no DC was set up by the state government after the 2001 Census as the J&K Assembly passed a law putting a freeze on fresh delimitation until 2026.
Electoral Reforms In India

Legislative Councils in States

Mains Paper 2 : Federalism |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Legislative Councils

Mains level : Benefits of having LCs



News

  • The Madhya Pradesh government has indicated that it plans to initiate steps towards creation of a Legislative Council.

Debate over two houses

  • Just as Parliament has two Houses, so can the states, if they choose to.
  • Opinion in the Constituent Assembly was divided on the idea.
  • Among the arguments in its favour, a second House can help check hasty actions by the directly elected House, and also enable non-elected individuals to contribute to the legislative process.
  • The arguments against the idea: a Legislative Council can be used to delay legislation, and to park leaders who have not been able to win an election.

Provision for a second House

  • Article 71 of the Constitution provides for the option of a state to have a Legislative Council in addition to its Legislative Assembly.
  • As in Rajya Sabha, members of a Legislative Council are not directly elected by voters.
  • Under Article 169, a Legislative Council can be formed “if the Legislative Assembly of the State passes a resolution to that effect by a majority of the total membership of the Assembly and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of the Assembly present and voting”.
  • Parliament can then pass a law to this effect.

Members of LC

  • Under Article 171 of the Constitution, the Legislative Council of a state shall not have more than one-third of the number of MLAs of the state, and not less than 40 members.
  • In Madhya Pradesh, which has 230 MLAs, the proposed Legislative Council can have at most 76 members.
  • As with Rajya Sabha MPs, the tenure of a Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) is six years, with one-third of members retiring every two years.

Election of MLCs

  • One-third of the MLCs are elected by the state’s MLAs, another one-third by a special electorate comprising sitting members of local governments such as municipalities and district boards, 1/12th by an electorate of teachers and another 1/12th by registered graduates.
  • The remaining members are appointed by the Governor for distinguished services in various fields.

LC vis-à-vis Rajya Sabha

  • The legislative power of the Councils is limited.
  • Unlike Rajya Sabha which has substantial powers to shape non-financial legislation, Legislative Councils lack a constitutional mandate to do so.
  • Assemblies can override suggestions/amendments made to legislation by the Council.
  • Again, unlike Rajya Sabha MPs, MLCs cannot vote in elections for the President and Vice President.
  • The Vice President is the Rajya Sabha Chairperson; an MLC is the Council Chairperson.

States with LCs

  • Currently, six states have Legislative Councils.
  • Jammu and Kashmir too had one, until the state was bifurcated into the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh.
  • Tamil Nadu’s then government had passed a law to set up a Council but the subsequent government withdrew it after coming to power in 2010.
  • Andhra Pradesh’s Legislative Council, set up in 1958, was abolished in 1985, then reconstituted in 2007.
  • The Odisha Assembly recently passed a resolution for a Legislative Council.
  • Proposals to create Councils in Rajasthan and Assam are pending in Parliament.
Legislative Council in States: Issues & Way Forward

BASIC Countries

Mains Paper 2 : Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and agreements involving India |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : BASIC group

Mains level : Mandate of the group


News

  • The BASIC countries — a grouping of Brazil, South Africa, India and China — held their 28th Ministerial meeting on Climate Change between August 14 to 16 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
  • India was represented by Union MoEFCC who underlined the importance of the grouping in “making the 2015 Paris climate Agreement accepted by all countries in its true letter and spirit”.

BASIC Countries

  • The BASIC group was formed as the result of an agreement signed by the four countries on November 28, 2009.
  • This emerging geopolitical alliance, initiated and led by China, then brokered the final Copenhagen Accord with the United States.
  • The signatory nations, all recently industrialized, committed to acting together at the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference, commonly known as the Copenhagen Summit.
  • The four committed to act jointly at the Copenhagen climate summit, including a possible united walk-out if their common minimum position was not met by the developed nations.
  • These nations have a broadly common position on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and raising the massive funds that are needed to fight climate change.
  • The Accord is however not legally binding.

Why it is significant?

  • The BASIC group wields considerable heft purely because of the size of the economies and populations of the member countries.
  • Brazil, South Africa, India and China put together has one-third of the world’s geographical area and nearly 40% of the world’s population.
  • The BASIC nations will work together ahead of the United Nations Session on Climate Change and the next Conference of Parties (CoP25) in Chile. China will host the next meeting of the BASIC Ministers.
  • BASIC is one of several groups of nations working together to fight climate change and carry out negotiations within the UNFCCC.
Climate Change Negotiations – UNFCCC, COP, Other Conventions and Protocols

Microplastics Pollution

Mains Paper 3 : Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Eia |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Microplastics

Mains level : Reach of plastic pollutants to Polar region



News

  • Tiny particles of plastic, known as microplastics, have been found in the Arctic region and the Alps, carried by the wind, according to a new study that was widely reported this week.
  • The study called for an urgent assessment of the risk of inhalation of the microplastics.

What are Microplastics?

  • Microplastics are defined as shreds of plastic less than 5 mm in length.
  • Microplastics are either manufactured — for instance, microbeads that are used in cosmetics and beauty products — or they are formed when larger pieces of plastic break down.
  • The small, shiny particles advertised as “cooling crystals” in certain toothpastes qualify as microplastics if the ingredients of the toothpaste mention “polyethylene”.
  • Even so, manufactured microbeads are not a major contributor to microplastic pollution.
  • One of the main contributors to this pollution, instead, is plastic waste, 90% of which is not recycled.
  • Plastic bottles, bags, fishing nets, and food packaging are some examples of the larger pieces that break down into microplastics, eventually finding their way into the soil, water and the air we breathe.

Growing concerns

  • The researchers found huge amounts of them in the Arctic snow; their study claims to be the first that contains data on contamination of snow by microplastics.
  • Several other recent studies have established the presence of microplastics in groundwater in the United States, and in the lakes and rivers of the United Kingdom.
  • A study published in June estimated that the average human ends up consuming at least 50,000 particles of microplastics in food every year.

Action by countries

  • In the recent past, several countries have passed laws to limit the amount of microplastics in the environment.
  • The US passed a law in 2015 to prohibit the manufacture of rinse-off cosmetic products containing plastic microbeads.
Waste Management – SWM Rules, EWM Rules, etc

ZSI finds new species of freshwater fish

Mains Paper 3 : Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Eia |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the species

Mains level : Not Much


News

New freshwater fishes

  • Scientists of the Zoological Survey (ZSI) of India have discovered two new species of freshwater fish from the north-eastern and northern parts of the country.
  • Both fish, measuring less than seven centimetres, are hill stream fauna and are equipped with special morphological features to suit rapid water flow.

Glyptothorax gopii

  • It (measuring 63 mm standard length without caudal fin) is dark brown catfish on its dorsal surface, and its ventral surface is of a yellowish-light brown.
  • It has been named to celebrate the contribution of taxonomist K.C. Gopi.
  • It was discovered from Champai district in Mizoram near the India-Myanmar border in Kaladan river.
  • It has an axe-shaped anterior nuchal plate (bone below dorsal fin), which makes it distinct from other species of the genus
  • The elliptical thoracic adhesive apparatus and plicae (folds of tissue) present on the ventral surfaces of the pectoral-fin spine help the fish cling to rocks.

Garra simbalbaraensis

  • It (measuring 69 mm standard length without caudal fin) has a yellowish-grey colour fading ventrally.
  • It takes its name from the Himachal Pradesh’s Simbalbara river.
  • It has a prominent unilobed and rounded proboscis with tubercles that help the fish in manoeuvrability.

Other species discovered

  • The scientist, who heads the freshwater fish section of ZSI, has earlier discovered four species of Gara (which has an evolved disc to attach to rocky surfaces).
  • The discoveries include Garra compressa in the year 1998, elongata (2000), G. tamangi (2016), and G. chindwinensis (2018).
  • Among catfish (characterised by whiskers), the scientist earlier discovered Myersglanis jayarami (1999), Glyptothorax senapatiensis (2015), and Olya parviocula (2018), all from north-eastern India.

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe

Mains Paper 3 : Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology, Bio-Technology |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Parker Solar Probe

Mains level : About the solar mission



News

  • NASA’s Parker Solar Probe completed a year in service.

Parker Solar Probe

  • It is part of NASA’s “Living with a Star” programme that explores different aspects of the Sun-Earth system.
  • The probe seeks to gather information about the Sun’s atmosphere and NASA says that it “will revolutionise our understanding of the Sun”.
  • It is also the closest a human-made object has ever gone to the Sun.
  • During the spacecraft’s first two solar encounters, the instruments were turned on when Parker was about 0.25 AU from the Sun and powered off again at the same distance on the outbound side of the orbit.
  • For this third solar encounter, the mission team turned on the instruments when the spacecraft was around 0.45 AU from the Sun on the inbound side of its orbit.
  • It will turn them off when the spacecraft is about 0.5 AU from the Sun on the outbound side.

Ai m of the mission

  • The mission’s central aim is to trace how energy and heat move through the Sun’s corona and to study the source of the solar wind’s acceleration.
  • The mission is likely to last for seven years during which it will complete 24 orbits.
International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries