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J&K – The issues around the state

ECI vague on whether J&K is part of Electoral College of President’s election

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Electoral College of President

Mains level : President’s election and impeachment process

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has replied ambiguously to an RTI query if the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir will be part of the Electoral College for the election of the President of India.

This newscard invokes our basic GYAN acquired from the holy ‘Indian Polity’ by M. Laxmikanth. After reading this, ask yourself questions about the following :

1) What comprises the electoral college of the President of India?

2) Cases where the Constitutional Amendment Acts are required and wherever not

What did ECI say?

  • The RTI request sought a list of the State and UTs Legislative Assemblies which were part of the Electoral College for the election of the President.
  • The query also asked the EC to clarify whether the newly-formed UT of Jammu and Kashmir was part of the Electoral College.
  • The EC sent a single-line response, merely saying- for the information, the applicant may be informed to refer Article 54 of the Constitution of India.

What is Article 54 of the Constitution?

  • Under Article 54, the President is elected by an Electoral College, which consists of the elected members of both Houses of Parliament and the elected members of the Legislative Assemblies of all the States and also of NCT of Delhi and the UT of Puducherry.
  • The art. 54, thus, only specifically mentions NCT of Delhi and Puducherry as eligible to be part of the Electoral College.
  • There is no word about the newly-formed UTs of J&K and Ladakh.

Ambiguity over J&K

  • The J&K Reorganization Act, which came into existence from August 2019, does not specify anything about whether the legislature of J&K would be able to vote in the election for a President.
  • A passing mention is made in Section 13 of the 2019 Act, which claims that J&K Legislature would have the same powers as its Puducherry counterpart.
  • The astonishing thing to note is that not a single MP in the parliamentary debate has pointed out this fact yet.

A constitutional amendment is required

  • Inclusion of new members in the Electoral College in Article 54 would require a Constitutional Amendment to be carried out through two-thirds majority in Parliament and ratification by over 50% of the States.
  • This matter involves principles of federalism, hence constitutional amendment is a must.
  • Delhi and Puducherry were included as Electoral College members under Article 54 through the Constitution (Seventieth) Amendment Act of 1992.
  • Before that, Article 54 consisted of only the elected Members of Parliament as well as the Legislative Assemblies of the States.

Back2Basics: Presidential Election in India

  • The President is elected by an Electoral College, which consists of the elected members of both Houses of Parliament and the elected members of the Legislative Assemblies of all the States and also of NCT of Delhi and the UT of Puducherry.
  • The authority to conduct elections to the Office of President is vested in the Election Commission of India.
  • The election of the President is held in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote and the voting at such election shall be by secret ballot.

  • The notification calling the election to the office of the President can be issued by the Election Commission on any day within the period of sixty days before the expiry of the term of office.
  • The election schedule shall be so fixed, that the President-elect is able to enter upon his office on the day following the expiry of the term of the outgoing President.

With inputs from: TOI

Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP)

Mains level : Read the attached story

  • To augment infrastructure and create jobs in the country, the government task force on National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP), which in its report projected total investment of Rs 111 lakh crore in infra projects over five years.
  • It said that 18 per cent of the targeted investment is expected to be made in the road sector.

It is estimated that India would need to spend $4.5 trillion on infrastructure by 2030 to sustain its growth rate. The endeavour of the National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP), is to make this happen in an efficient manner.

What is the National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP)?

  • NIP includes economic and social infrastructure projects.
  • During the fiscals 2020 to 2025, sectors such as Energy (24%), Roads (19%), Urban (16%), and Railways (13%) amount to around 70% of the projected capital expenditure in infrastructure in India.
  • It has outlined plans to invest more than ₹102 lakh crore on infrastructure projects by 2024-25, with the Centre, States and the private sector to share the capital expenditure in a 39:39:22 formula.

Key benefits of NIP

  • Economic: Well-planned NIP will enable more infra projects, grow businesses, create jobs, improve ease of living, and provide equitable access to infrastructure for all, making growth more inclusive.
  • Government: Well-developed infrastructure enhances the level of economic activity, creates additional fiscal space by improving the revenue base of the government, and ensures the quality of expenditure focused in productive areas.
  • Developers: Provides a better view of project supply, provides time to be better prepared for project bidding, reduces aggressive bids/ failure in project delivery, ensures enhanced access to sources of finance as a result of increased investor confidence.
  • Banks/financial institutions (F1s)/investors: Builds investor confidence as identified projects are likely to be better prepared, exposures less likely to suffer stress given active project monitoring, thereby less likelihood of NPAs.

Projects include

  • The report contains recommendations on general and sector reforms relating to key infrastructure sectors for implementation by the Centre and states.
  • These projects will be implemented under the National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP), a first of its kind exercise, by consulting states, relevant ministries and departments.
  • Three committees will be set up to monitor project progress, eliminate delays, and find ways to raise resources, along with a steering committee in each of the infrastructure ministries.
  • Sectors such as energy (24%), roads (18%), urban (17%) and railways (12%) amount to around 71% of the projected investments.
  • The projects will also be spread across sectors such as irrigation, mobility, education, health, water and the digital sector.

Textile Sector – Cotton, Jute, Wool, Silk, Handloom, etc.

Rebate of State Levies (ROSL) Scheme

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Rebate of State Levies (ROSL) Scheme

Mains level : Textile sector of India and its global competitiveness

The Department of Revenue has allowed the release of pending Rebate of State Levies (RoSL) worth Rs 464.13 crore to garment exporters.

We may expect a prelim question like- “The Rebate of State Levies (ROSL) Scheme is related to which of the following industrial sector? ” with some unrelatedly looking options.

Rebate of State Levies (ROSL) Scheme

  • Last year, the Union Cabinet has approved the Scheme to Rebate State and Central Embedded Taxes to Support the Textile Sector.
  • The scheme aimed to reimburse the State levies that garment and made-up exports incurred.
  • But it was discontinued on and replaced with the Rebate of State and Central Taxes and Levies scheme.

Why was such a scheme needed?

  • ROSL plays a vital role for the exporters by providing zero-rated taxation on apparel and made-up products.
  • This scheme enabled the exporters to increase traffic, enhance competitiveness among the global market, and compete against countries such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Cambodia and Vietnam, who enjoy zero taxation.
  • This also benefits the traders who export to the European Union (EU), India’s largest export market for the apparel sector, facing a tariff variation of 9.6 per cent.

GI(Geographical Indicator) Tags

Kashmir saffron gets GI tag

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kashmir Saffron

Mains level : GI tags and their significance

Kashmir saffron has been given the Geographical Indication (GI) tag by the Geographical Indications Registry.

Must read:

GI Tags in news for 2020 Prelims

All time GI tags in news

Kashmir saffron

  • It is cultivated and harvested in the Karewa (highlands) in some regions of Kashmir, including Pulwama, Budgam, Kishtwar and Srinagar.
  • It is a very precious and costly product. Iran is the largest producer of saffron and India is a close competitor.
  • It rejuvenates health and is used in cosmetics and for medicinal purposes.
  • It has been associated with traditional Kashmiri cuisine and represents the rich cultural heritage of the region.
  • Saffron cultivation is believed to have been introduced in Kashmir by Central Asian immigrants around 1st Century BCE. In ancient Sanskrit literature, saffron is referred to as ‘bahukam’.

3 Types

The saffron available in Kashmir is of three types —

  • ‘Lachha Saffron’, with stigmas just separated from the flowers and dried without further processing;
  • ‘Mongra Saffron’, in which stigmas are detached from the flower, dried in the sun and processed traditionally; and
  • ‘Guchhi Saffron’, which is the same as Lachha, except that the latter’s dried stigmas are packed loosely in air-tight containers while the former has stigmas joined together in a bundle tied with a cloth thread

Whats’ so special about Kashmir Saffron?

  • The unique characteristics of Kashmir saffron are its longer and thicker stigmas, natural deep-red colour, high aroma, bitter flavour, chemical-free processing, and high quantity of crocin (colouring strength), safranal (flavour) and picrocrocin (bitterness).
  • It is the only saffron in the world grown at an altitude of 1,600 m to 1,800 m AMSL (above mean sea level), which adds to its uniqueness and differentiates it from other saffron varieties available the world over.

Global Geological And Climatic Events

[pib] River erosion in Ladakh Himalayas

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Himalayan rivers, Zanskar Padam

Mains level : Read the attached story

Indian researchers have studied rivers in Ladakh Himalaya, bringing out 35 thousand-year histories of river erosion and identified hotspots of erosion and wide valleys that act buffer zones.

Click here to read more about the Himalayan river systems and its orogeny

Erosion hotspot: Ladakh region

  • The Ladakh Himalaya forms a high altitude desert between Greater Himalayan ranges and Karakoram Ranges.
  • The Indus and its tributaries are major rivers flowing through the terrain.
  • The Zanskar River is one of the largest tributaries of the upper Indus catchment, draining orthogonally through highly deformed Zanskar ranges.

Zanskar: A major river in Ladakh

  • Two prominent tributaries of Zanskar River are the Doda and Tsrap Lingti Chu, which confluence at Padam village in the upper valley to form the Zanskar River.
  • Zanskar catchment was explored to understand the landform evolution in the transitional climatic zone, using morpho-stratigraphy and study of landforms like valley fill terraces, alluvial fans (triangle-shaped deposit of gravel, sand, and even smaller pieces of sediment, such as silt).

Zanskar Padam

  • Zanskar river makes a deep gorge in its lower reaches with the headwaters in upper Zanskar makes wide basin called as Padam.
  • The basin stores large amount of sediments in form of fans and river terrace deposits
  • The research suggested that the wide valley of Padam, with an area of 48 square km, in the upper Zanskar, has stored a vast amount of sediments in these landforms.
  • Thus Padam valley is a hotspot of sediment buffering in the Zanskar.

Sediment study reveals the erosion

  • The study suggested that most sediments were derived from Higher Himalayan crystalline that lies in the headwater region of Zanskar.
  • It was found out that dominant factors responsible for sediment erosion were deglaciation and Indian Summer Monsoon derived precipitation in the headwaters despite the presence of a geomorphic barrier (the deep, narrow gorge).

Significance of the study

  • The scientists have traced where the rivers draining Himalaya and its foreland erode the most and identify the zones that receive these eroded sediments and fill up.
  • The study will help understand river-borne erosion and sedimentation, which are the main drivers that make large riverine plains, terraces, and deltas that eventually become the cradle to evolving civilizations.
  • It will also help study the dynamics of devastating floods created by these Himalayan rivers in recent times.
  • Thus, the understanding of water and sediment routing becomes crucial while developing infrastructure and for other development works in the river catchment area.

Coronavirus – Health and Governance Issues

[pib] Year of Awareness on Science & Health (YASH) Program

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : YASH Program

Mains level : NA

National Council for Science & Technology Communication (NCSTC) has launched a programme on health and risk communication ‘Year of Awareness on Science & Health (YASH)’ with focus on COVID-19.

There are various initiatives named with Hindi acronyms. YASH is newer among them. It is very unlikely to frame a prelim question on it. Still, we should know it for the sake of general awareness.

YASH Program

  • YASH is a comprehensive and effective science and health communication effort for promoting grass-root level appreciation and response to health.
  • The current pandemic scenario has posed concerns and challenges all around, where scientific awareness and health preparedness play a significant role to help combat the situation.
  • This requires translation and usage of authentic scientific information to convey the risks involved and facilitates communities to overcome the situation.
  • The programme will encompass the development of science, health, and risk communication software, publications, audio-visual, digital platforms, folk performances, trained communicators, especially in regional languages to cater to various cross-sections of the society in the country.
  • It would help to save and shaping the lives of people at large, as well as build confidence, inculcate a scientific temper and promote health consciousness among them.

Activities under YASH

  • The programme is aimed at minimizing risks at all levels with the help of public communication and outreach activities.
  • It would promote public understanding of common minimum science for community care and health safety measures like personal sanitation and hygiene, physical distancing, maintaining desired collective behaviour and so on.
  • It also includes information dissemination mechanisms to reduce the fear of risks and build confidence with necessary understanding for adopting sustainable healthy lifestyles and nurturing scientific culture among masses and societies.

Agricultural Sector and Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

[pib] Kisan Sabha App to Connect Farmers to Supply Chain and Freight Transportation

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kisan Sabha App and its purpose

Mains level : Technology intervention for supply-chain dynamics of farm produces in India

Kisan Sabha App developed by CSIR to connect farmers to supply chain and freight transportation management system was recently launched.

Initiatives as such are less likely to be asked in the prelims as the name and purpose create no different analogy. But for the sake of information and mains perspective, it is vital to remember such technology interventions while emphasizing on Agricultural marketing reforms.

Kisan Sabha App

  • Kisan Sabha aims to provide the most economical and timely logistics support to the farmers and increase their profit margins by minimizing the interference of middlemen and directly connecting with the institutional buyers.
  • It will also help in providing the best market rates of crops by comparing nearest mandis, booking of freight vehicle at the cheapest cost thereby giving maximum benefit to the farmers.
  • The portal connects the farmers, transporters, Service providers (like pesticides/ fertilizer/ dealers, cold store and warehouse owner), mandi dealers, customers and other related entities for a timely and effective solution.
  • The app has 6 major modules taking care of Farmers/Mandi Dealers/Transporters/Mandi Board Members/ Service Providers/Consumers.

Facilities provided by the app

  • The portal acts as a single stop for every entity related to agriculture, be they a farmer who needs better price for the crops or mandi dealer who wants to connect to more farmers or truckers who invariably go empty from the mandis.
  • It provides a platform for people who want to buy directly from the farmers.
  • It would also prove to be useful for those associated with cold store(s) or godown(s).

Coronavirus – Economic Issues

Pandemic calls for deep-set forces and scientific concepts of development for building a modern economy

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : e-VTOLs.

Mains level : Paper 3- Recovery strategy after Covid-19 and adoption of green technologies.

The article discusses the recovery strategies for India. There are three examples from the past from which we can draw the lessons. 1) Recovery of the US and Europe after the World Wars 2) Recovery of Japan after World War 3) China’s stimulus package after the 2008 financial crisis. In the case of the first two, climate change was not the factor. But in case of the 2008 financial package, China emphasised green technologies and was benefited from it. Drawing on China’s example, the article suggests three pronged strategy for India’s recovery taking into account the climate change factor.

Decisions on recovery and lessons from the past recovery frameworks

  • The decisions and directions taken by states from hereon will be judged ruthlessly by historical lenses.
  • Though India has managed the pandemic with relative precision, we cannot deny an impending emergence of a new socio-economic order, where the recovery is going to be hard-earned.
  • This is not the first time the world has faced an economic crisis and won’t be the last.
  • Can a country like India, which might be one of the few countries to come out of the crisis without a recession, take lessons from past recovery frameworks?
  • Recovery frameworks: Even though the very nature of the current health crisis is much different from the past crises like World Wars and their repercussions in Europe, the US and Japan.
  • But the evidence shows that ambitious recovery plans made these nation-states more prosperous than the pre-crisis period.

Recovery lessons form the western world after the World Wars

  • Hurt by the two World Wars and a Great Depression in between, the western world demonstrated unprecedented recovery to attain post-war full employment and stabilized income levels.
  • Almost thirty years between World War II and 1973 recession (“Glorious Thirties“), the countries like the US, Canada, Germany, and France experienced a golden period of growth.
  • In the US, the labour productivity grew at 2.82% per year which meant that productivity doubled every 25 years thanks to better machines driven by electricity and internal combustion engines, better education and massive capital investment.
  • The world wars accelerated technological innovations in energy, manufacturing and vastly improved the labour pool.

Recovery of Japan after World War

  • Severely hit by the war, Japan’s miraculous growth from 1950 to 1990 is another example of a state using great adversity to propel itself towards prosperity.
  • Post-war liberalization was augmented by multilateral trade agreements and export promotion schemes.
  • That propelled the Japanese economy to dizzying heights making it the second-largest economy at the time.
  • Apart from fiscal stimuli, immense efforts went into strengthening human capital by promoting R&D and skilling activities.
  • Suddenly, Japan becomes one of the most ingenious economies churning out one innovative product after another in fields like electronics.
  • In addition, pioneering quality systems made Japan the first Asian economy to become a developed state.

Recoveries based on values and technological innovations

  • All the above recoveries are rooted in modern values like create, explore and meet challenges.
  • While large investments garner a lot of attention, role played by massive skilling and resultant technological innovation should not be forgotten.
  • Skilling and innovation enabled creating goods and services of the future.

Climate change and recovery

  • These successful recovery plans did not have the responsibility to plan for an impending climate change hanging over our head by a thread.
  • The times were different; the needs were different: more importantly, the evidences were not as irrefutable as now.
  • A 2018 study titled ‘Earth’s future’, estimated that India will lose 10% of its GDP annually in a 3°C scenario and lose 14% of its GDP annually in a 4°C scenario in the long term.
  • And the time to act is ‘now’, as consequences of inaction are existential.

China’s stimulus after the 2008 crisis with a focus on green technologies

  • Fast-forwarding to the 21st century, the 2008–09 Chinese economic stimulus plan pumped in $586 billion to manage the crisis.
  • With serious money of $586 billion going into upgrading selected industrial sectors to firm up its presence in the global value chains (GVC).
  • Interestingly, a sizeable portion went into green technologies.
  • China understood that if the world is provided with affordable green technologies at scale, the states will incentivize the increasingly eco-aware consumers to buy these products.
  • Catalyzed by plans like “Ten Cities, Thousand Vehicles and “Thousand Talents Program (TTP)” and generous state incentives, China became a global leader in e-vehicles.
  • Chinese-made buses started roaming famous cities across the world, the roads traditionally dominated by European makers.
  • Powered by generous capital infusion, China also attained leadership in solar panels, batteries and associated supply chains in a short period setting up a sustainable growth module.
  • A lesson in fiscal prudence: The 2008–09 Chinese economic stimulus plan is also criticized for raising the Chinese debt levels, hence giving us lessons in fiscal prudence.

Should India opt for a green recovery module?

  • Can a developing India afford to allocate a significant portion of its precious resources towards a green recovery module?
  • Unbridled economic growth and sustainable development are not mutually exclusive.
  • In fact, we might not have a choice, given the movement of global supply chain towards green technologies and tightening screws around strict sustainability standards.
  • European Commission, for instance, has announced that every euro into the recovery plan will be linked to green recovery.

A three-pronged approach is suggested for recovery

1. Investment and incentives for green economic activities in the selected sectors

  • First, ambitious investment and incentives in catalyzing futuristic green economic activities in selected sectors.
  • Developing, manufacturing and deploying low carbon products could help India create more jobs: the kind of jobs that will survive into the future.
  • With Giga scale battery and solar manufacturing plans already underway, there is a huge demand globally for sustainable supply chain of even traditional sectors such as textiles.
  • India could choose 5 sectors where it can fill the sustainability vacuum helping the sub-continent emerge as a new global leader in those sectors.
  • India has the potential to scale-up currently ready technologies like e-VTOLs (intra-city electric aerial mobility), which will upend the global mobility modules, increasing the profitability of growing Indian e-mobility supply chain.
  • Companies like Hyundai who have already announced manufacturing of e-VTOLs should be attracted to India.
  • Crisis situations often provide policy windows, where all the stakeholders are empowered, and historically time-consuming decisions are fast-forwarded.
  • If India manages to efficiently remove regulatory bottlenecks and creates standards for e-VTOLs before anyone else, it will take a huge chunk of the global future mobility pie.
  • Similar initiatives for other strategic sectors could be carried out.

2. Resolve regulatory and on-ground legacy issues

  • Aggressively resolving on-ground legacy issues and challenges.
  • Shackles around entrepreneurship from labour laws to clearances regimes should be broken one by one.
  • It could be done by leveraging the cooperative and competitive federalism evidenced through the crisis under the able leadership of the Hon’ble Prime Minister.
  • And the current policy window might be an ideal opportunity for Indian democracy to deliver.

3. Focus on skilling people

  • Third, a big-ticket omni-channel skilling architecture should be instituted.
  • Universities should be empowered and enabled to come up with new-age educational programmes to serve futuristic industries.
  • A special focus should be given to develop enough trainers to train the millions of Indian youth getting ready for the labour market every year, in new-age skills.
  • Adequate online-offline training courses must be designed in a way that it does not affect daily wages drastically.
  • The big-ticket vocational programmes, specially directed at the informal sector which constitute more than 90% of the total workforce, has the potential to employ displaced and poor labourers.
  • A strategic skill committee may be empowered to dynamically identify key skills and tweak the training modules.
  • This can be integrated with the Ministry of Environment’s Green Skill Development Program to train 10 million youth by 2030.

The issues discussed here are important for achieving sustainable and inclusive growth. A question based on this theme was asked by UPSC in 2019.

Consider the question “It is argued that the strategy of inclusive growth is intended to meet the objectives of inclusiveness and sustainability together. Comment on this statement.”

Conclusion

The current pandemic calls for deep-set forces and scientific concepts of development for building a dynamic and modern economy. Green growth is one such concept that will add a new dimension to the economic dynamism of the sub-continent helping it serve the aspirations of its citizens.

Intellectual Property Rights in India

Rethinking the role of Intellectual Property in Corona crisis

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : TRIPS.

Mains level : Paper 3- How Covid-19 could impact the intellectual property rights?

The article discusses the idea of creating a patent pool of the patents dealing with Covid-19. Such a patent pool will be effective in avoiding the possibility of the hostile response of societies towards patent rights. And also avoid the conflict between nations. corporations and international organisations.

Purpose of patent rights

  • The purpose of creating and recognising patent rights is for the common public good, i.e., innovation should be made public in exchange for a limited monopoly.
  • Thus, patents need to be disclosed to the public in order to enable further research.
  • Should pandemics such as COVID-19be an exception to this?
  • With the outbreak of COVID-19, there are several innovations.
  • All these innovations may be the subject matter of patent applications around the world.
  • It will be a few years before patents are even granted.
  • However, friction already exists among various stakeholders.
  • For instance, one country made attempts to obtain exclusive rights to a vaccine being developed.
  • On the other hand, there are also collaborations taking place.
  • However, the spirit of collaborative solutions is only on the anvil.
  • The question that arises is whether the exclusivity that is recognised by patent rights will be detrimental to society.
  • Will patents create roadblocks or is there a solution?

Possibility of conflicts over patent rights

  • Governments and international organisations need to arrive at a consensus in advance to ensure that the system is ready.
  • Procrastination would be disastrous.
  • Creating hindrances through exclusivity claims, in the wake of a pandemic, will result in dividing countries, corporations and international organisations.
  • This will not benefit patients and the world as a whole.
  • If patent owners create impediments on the strength of patent rights, the world will start despising patents and that is not a situation IP owners ought to be in.
  • Under the TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) regime, there are several tools such as compulsory licensing that are available to ensure access to medicines.
  • However, beyond the laws, society needs to respect innovation.
  • To protect the sanctity and integrity of patent systems, and in order to ensure that an anti-IP sentiment is not generated globally, answers need to be found within the existing regime.
  • In exceptional circumstances such as these, there is a likelihood that societies may resort to extreme steps to protect themselves.
  • Before such ideas are floated, solutions should be created.

The idea of creating a patent pool

  • One method by which aggregation and dissemination of innovative products can be ensured is by creating a patent pool.
  • Patent pools are usually effective in aggregating, administering and licensing patents related to specific areas of technology.
  • Such pools are usually managed by a central agency and the patents which become part of the pool are readily made available for licensing.
  • Some pools even publish the royalty rates payable for such licences.
  • Anyone who wishes to obtain a licence will be able to approach the pool, agree to the terms, and begin to manufacture and sell the products.
  • Such pools are prevalent in, for instance, standard essential patents related to telecom and digital innovations.
  • At the moment, individual efforts are being made by research organisations to create their own pools.
  • A more fruitful endeavour would be to create a global pool of COVID-19-related innovations, or innovations related to rare pandemics, in respect of vaccines and medicines.
  • This could be managed by a trustworthy international organisation.
  • All countries ought to have the right to implement these innovations without further permission from the patent-holders.
  • This would not require countries resorting to provisions such as compulsory licensing, state acquisition, etc.
  • Even if royalties are at a minimal level, the revenues would still be in billions of dollars owing to the large swathes of the population affected by the pandemic, who will need to be administered these products.

Way forward

  • Creation of a pool and immediate licensing will ensure that there are hundreds of manufacturers across the world.
  • As a result, vaccines and medicines will be quickly available.
  • Such a pool needs the cooperation of not just countries and international organisations but also the hundreds of researchers, innovators, companies and universities involved.
  • Doha Declaration: Pooling of patent resources is also in line with the Doha Declaration on Public Health which is a part of the TRIPS agreement.
  • This declaration recognises the need for taking measures to ‘protect public health’ and ‘promote access to medicines’.

A direct question on the issue can be asked by the UPSC, for ex-“Though IPRs have been provided to respect and protect the innovations and ideas, but in the wake of corona crisis, some strict provisions need to be changed. In light of the above statement, discuss the limitations of the exclusivity clause under the patents rights. And how can it be overcome in emergency situations?”

Conclusion

Public-private partnerships (PPP) need to be scaled up. Creation of the ‘PPP-pandemic patent pool’ at a global level, to pool all innovations, is the way forward. Let us not wait any longer.

Coronavirus – Disease, Medical Sciences Involved & Preventive Measures

Plasma therapy is no silver bullet

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Convalescent plasma therapy.

Mains level : Paper 3- What is plasma therapy and issues involved in its adoption.

The article discusses the issues with convalescent plasma therapy. The therapy has been in the news as a cure to Covid-19. The lack of conclusive evidence is a major issue. There are certain risks involved in large scale adoption. All such issues are dealt with in detail here.

Importance of scientific research in dealing with Covid-19

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges to governments, health professionals and the general public at large, around the world.
  • Every response, administrative, social, economic or medical is being subjected to intense public scrutiny, as it rightly should be in the spirit of mature democracy.
  • Scientific research in medicine is the only means to overcome novel and complex diseases such as COVID-19 and that too thrives on the same spirit of debate and criticism.
  • Difficulty in establishing protocols: The difference is that the standards of evidence required, to generate consensus and arrive at the most optimal protocols, are far more rigorous and time-taking than in most other walks of life.

Issues with plasma therapy

  • The convalescent plasma therapy, that is being currently studied by the Indian Council of Medical Research, through open-label, randomised controlled trial to evaluate it for both safety and efficacy.
  • The problem with the therapy is of the lack of established protocols.
  • What is involved in therapy? The therapy involves infusing patients suffering from COVID-19 with plasma from recovered patients.
  • In theory, the antibodies of the recovered person may help that patient’s immune system fight the virus.
  • While showing great promise, it is a line of treatment that is yet to be validated for efficacy and safety and cannot be deployed widely without caution.
  • The current evidence to conclude anything about the true benefits of this therapy is very thin.
  • Till date, there have been only three published case series for convalescent plasma in COVID-19 with a cumulative of 19 patients.
  • Given the very small number of patients involved in these studies and a publication bias in medicine, we cannot conclude the therapy will work on all patients all the time or even believe that the convalescent plasma was the only reason for their improvement.
  • The most important principle in medical ethics is “do no harm”.
  • The transfusion of convalescent plasma is also not without risks, which range from mild reactions like fever, itching, to life-threatening allergic reactions and lung injury.
  • To recommend a therapy without studying it thoroughly with robust scientific methods may cause more harm than good.
  • Further, convalescent plasma therapy requires intensive resources, healthy COVID-19 survivors to donate, a blood bank with proper machinery and trained personnel to remove plasma, equipment to store it and testing facilities to make sure it has an adequate amount of antibodies.

Need for the Randomised Controlled Trials (RCT)

  • To say with certainty whether a drug is truly effective or not, the gold standard in medicine is to conduct a randomised controlled trial.
  • In RCT half the patients get the experimental drug and the other half do not.
  • Only if patients in the first half show substantial improvement over those in the second half, it indicates the drug is beneficial.

Exploring other options and focusing on health infrastructure

  • Too much focus on one approach can take away the focus from other important therapeutic modalities like the use of oxygen therapy, antivirals, and antibiotics for complicated hospital courses.
  • To overcome the pandemic comprehensively, we should focus on strengthening health systems at all levels, including referral systems, supply chain, logistics and inventory management.
  • We need to work on protecting our healthcare workers, improving prevention methods, promoting cough etiquettes, effective quarantining and accurate testing.

A direct question based on the therapy like- “What is convalescent plasma therapy and what are the issues involved in its adoption?” can be asked by the UPSC.

Conclusion

Even these times of collective uncertainty are no reason to lower scientific temper. Science should be driven by reason and evidence with hope as a catalyst but not by either fear or populism. Pushing one or the other therapy without evidence or caution can only set back our larger fight against COVID-19.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Study on China dams brings the Brahmaputra into focus

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Mekon River

Mains level : India-China Relations

A new study highlighting the impact of China’s dams on the Mekong River has raised fresh questions on whether dams being built on other rivers that originate in China, such as the Brahmaputra, may similarly impact countries downstream.

Make a note of:

1) Tributaries of R. Brahmaputra

2) Countries swept by R. Mekong

3) Mekong-Ganga Cooperation (reminds us seeing R. Mekong)

China’s dams on the Mekong River

  • The Mekong flows from China to Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.
  • The Mekong River Commission, which comprises Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, has said more scientific evidence was needed to establish whether dams caused a 2019 drought.
  • While China’s southwestern Yunnan province which usually has above-average rainfall, there was “severe lack of water in the lower Mekong.

Mekong dams raise some questions

  • The Mekong study was not conclusive on the question of how China’s dams had affected the quantity of flows.
  • To state that the basin had less water because of activities in China alone is misleading, mainly because that only considers the water flowing into the lower basin at one station in Thailand.
  • The study did not consider other dams and water-use along the course of the river.
  • The lower basin isn’t entirely dependent on flows from China but also receives water from tributaries in all four countries, which the study did not account for.

Concerns for India

  • India does not have a water-sharing agreement with China, but both sides share hydrological data.
  • India has long expressed concerns over dam-building on the Brahmaptura.
  • In 2015, China operationalised its first hydropower project at Zangmu, while three other dams at Dagu, Jiexu and Jiacha are being developed.
  • India need to raise the issue of river waters in the Brahmaputra with China, as that appears to be the only methodology to ensure what happened on Mekong does not happen on Brahmaputra.

A management problem

  • The dams are not likely to impact the quantity of the Brahmaputra’s flows because they are only storing water for power generation.
  • Moreover, the Brahmaputra is not entirely dependent on upstream flows and an estimated 35% of its basin is in India.
  • However, India concerns more about activity in China affecting quality, ecological balance, and flood management.

India’s Bid to a Permanent Seat at United Nations

India’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Permanent Missions to the UN

Mains level : Terms of reference for the mission

Syed Akbaruddin, a fiery spokesperson, who is credited with effectively presenting India’s position on a range of crucial issues at the UN headquarters in New York for the last several years, has retired. A 1985-batch IFS officer T S Tirumurti, currently serving as Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs will succeed him.

Permanent Missions to the United Nations

  • The Permanent Mission is the diplomatic mission that every member state deputies to the UN, and is headed by a Permanent Representative, who is also referred to as the “UN ambassador”.
  • Article 1 (7) of the Vienna Convention on the Representation of States provides for a permanent mission.
  • UN Permanent Representatives are assigned to the UN headquarters in New York City, and can also be appointed to other UN offices in Geneva, Vienna, and Nairobi.
  • The Mission in New York is housed in a 27-story building designed by the noted architect Charles Correa in 1993 and is decorated with MF Hussain paintings.

The Indian Permanent Mission at the UN

  • According to the website of the Permanent Mission of India in New York, there are currently eight Indians in senior leadership positions at the UN at the levels of Under-Secretary-General and Assistant Secretary-General.
  • The first Indian delegates at the UN included statesman Arcot Ramasamy Mudaliar, and freedom fighters Hansa Mehta, Vijayalakshmi Pandit, and Lakshmi Menon.
  • Mehta and Pandit were among the 15 women members of the Indian Constituent Assembly.
  • India was among the select members of the United Nations that signed the United Nations Declaration at Washington on January 1, 1942.
  • India also participated in the historic UN Conference of International Organization at San Francisco from April 25 to June 26, 1945.

History- Important places, persons in news

Why May 1 is observed as Labour Day?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : The Haymarket incident, Singaravelu Chettiar, Self Respect Movement

Mains level : Labour reforms in India before and after independence

Today (May 1) is May Day, also known as International Workers’ Day and as Labour Day in different parts of the world. It is an occasion that commemorates the contributions of workers and the historic labour movement.

Personality based history question in the UPSC CSE prelims is on the way to become the new normal. Kindly note all such phenomena in the news which tend to invoke some aspects of the modern Indian history. You can find all such news here.

The Haymarket incident

  • While observed as an ancient northern hemisphere spring festival, May 1 became associated with the labour movement in the late 19th century, after trade unions and socialist groups designated it as a day in support of workers.
  • It was decided to do so in memory of the Haymarket affair of 1886, in Chicago in the United States, in which a peaceful rally in support of workers led to a violent clash with the police, leading to the deaths of 4 civilians and 7 police officers.
  • Many of the agitationists, who were protesting workers’ rights violations, straining work hours, poor working conditions, low wages and child labour, were arrested and served terms of life imprisonment, death sentences, etc., and those who died were hailed as “Haymarket Martyrs”.
  • The incident is believed to have given the workers’ movement a great impetus.

Linked to the Russian Revolution

  • In 1889, The Second Communist International, an organisation created by socialist and labour parties, declared that May 1 would be commemorated as International Workers’ Day from then on.
  • Finally, in 1916, the US began to recognise eight-hour work timings after years of protests and uprisings.
  • In 1904, the International Socialist Congress at Amsterdam called on to demonstrate energetically on the First of May for the legal establishment of the 8-hour day.
  • After the Russian Revolution in 1917, the celebration was embraced by the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc nations during the Cold War– becoming a national holiday in many of them.
  • Parades were a part of the celebration– the one at Moscow’s Red Square was attended by top Communists leaders and displayed Soviet military might.

Indian Case

  • In India, May Day was first celebrated on May 1, 1923, after the Labour Kisan Party of Hindustan initiated and Comrade Singaravelar (Singaravelu Chettiar) helmed the celebrations.
  • Chettiar was known for being one of the leaders of Self Respect Movement in the Madras Presidency and for his fight for the rights of backward classes.
  • In one of his meetings, Chettiar passed a resolution stating the government should allow everybody a national holiday on Labour Day.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[pib] Earth’s Magnetosphere and its dynamics

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Earths magnetosphere

Mains level : Earths magnetosphere and its significance for space missions

Scientists at the Indian Institute of Geomagnetism (IIG) have developed a generalized one-dimensional fluid simulation code capable of studying a wide spectrum of coherent electric field structures of earth’s magnetosphere which can be useful in the planning of future space missions.

The newscard talks of not so new phenomenon but a basic terminology of space sciences. Kindly make a note of what the Magnotesphere is, how it is formed, role of solar winds, Geodynamo etc.

Earth’s Magnetosphere

  • The magnetosphere is the region of space surrounding Earth where the dominant magnetic field is the magnetic field of Earth, rather than the magnetic field of interplanetary space.
  • It is generated by the interaction of the solar wind with Earth’s magnetic field.

Features of the Earth’s magnetosphere

1) Bow shock,

2) Magnetosheath,

3) Magnetopause,

4) Northern tail lobe,

5) Southern tail lobe,

6) Plasmasphere,

7) Solar wind.

How is it formed?

  • Sun is the major source of plasma deposition in space around the Earth. Sun forces some of its plasma towards the earth in the form of the solar wind.
  • The speed of this wind varies between 300 to 1500 km/s, which carries with it solar magnetic field, called as Interplanetary Magnetic Field (IMF).
  • The magnetic field is generated by electric currents due to the motion of convection currents of a mixture of molten iron and nickel in the Earth’s outer core.
  • These convection currents are caused by heat escaping from the core, a natural process called a geodynamo.

Why study the magnetosphere?

  • The Earth’s magnetosphere is a vast region which has a finite number of satellites hurtling through this realm.
  • The morphology of the plasma processes around the satellite can be understood quite well.
  • However, when they leave the observational domain of one satellite to enter into another, a vast blind arena is created.
  • How the morphology of these processes changes over space and time can be ideally deciphered only through computer simulations.

Outcome of the study

  • Almost 99% of matter in the universe is in the form of plasma, Earth’s magnetosphere, too, contains this material and the plasma.
  • They have the ability to hamper the working of a number of satellites that have been placed in orbit in the magnetospheric region.

Significance

  • Apart from the well being of these expensive satellites, the academic understanding of this region is quite essential to comprehend the cosmos in its entirety.
  • The study will help advance the knowledge of plasma waves, instabilities, and coherent effects associated with wave-particle interactions that are useful in planning of future space missions.
  • It can also lead to precisely controlled fusion laboratory experiments for ever-expanding energy needs of humanity.

GI(Geographical Indicator) Tags

GI tag to Manipur black rice, Gorakhpur terracotta and Kovilpatti kadalai mittai

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GI mentioned in the news

Mains level : Not Much

Chak-Hao, the black rice of Manipur and the Gorakhpur terracotta and the Kovilpatti kadalai mittai of Tamil Nadu have bagged the Geogrphical Indication (GI) tag.

Must read: GI Tags in news for 2020 Prelims

Chak-Hao

  • Chak-Hao, the scented glutinous rice which has been in cultivation in Manipur over centuries.
  • It is characterized by its special aroma. It is normally eaten during community feasts and is served as Chak-Hao kheer.
  • The application for Chak-Hao was filed by the Consortium of Producers of Chak-Hao (Black Rice), Manipur and was facilitated by the Department of Agriculture.
  • Chak-Hao has also been used by traditional medical practitioners as part of traditional medicine.
  • According to the GI application filed, this rice takes the longest cooking time of 40-45 minutes due to the presence of a fibrous bran layer and higher crude fibre content.
  • At present, the traditional system of Chak-Hao cultivation is practised in some pockets of Manipur.
  • Direct sowing of pre-soaked seeds and also transplantation of rice seedlings raised in nurseries in puddled fields are widely practised in the State’s wetlands.

Gorakhpur terracotta

  • The terracotta work of Gorakhpur is a centuries-old traditional art form, where the potters make various animal figures like, horses, elephants, camel, goat, ox, etc. with hand-applied ornamentation.
  • The application was filed by Laxmi Terracotta Murtikala Kendra in Uttar Pradesh.
  • Some of the major products of craftsmanship include the Hauda elephants, Mahawatdar horse, deer, camel, five-faced Ganesha, singled-faced Ganesha, elephant table, chandeliers, hanging bells etc.
  • The entire work is done with bare hands and artisans use natural colour, which stays fast for a long time.
  • There are more than 1,000 varieties of terracotta work designed by the local craftsmen.
  • The craftsmen are mainly spread over the villages of Aurangabad, Bharwalia, Langadi Gularia, Budhadih, Amawa, Ekla etc. in Bhathat and Padri Bazar, Belwa Raipur, Jungle Ekla No-1, Jungle Ekla No-2 in Chargawan block of Gorakhpur.

Kovilpatti kadalai mittai

  • It is a candy made of peanuts held together with glistening syrup, and topped with wisps of grated coconut dyed pink, green and yellow.
  • It is made using all natural ingredients such as the traditional and special ‘vellam’ (jaggery) and groundnuts and water from the river Thamirabarani is used in the production, which enhances the taste naturally.
  • It is manufactured in Kovilpatti and adjacent towns and villages in Thoothukudi district.
  • It is produced by using both groundnuts and jaggery (organic jaggery), in carefully selected quantities from selected specific locations in Tamil Nadu.

Back2Basics: Geographical Indications in India

  • A Geographical Indication is used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin.
  • Such a name conveys an assurance of quality and distinctiveness which is essentially attributable to its origin in that defined geographical locality.
  • This tag is valid for a period of 10 years following which it can be renewed.
  • Recently the Union Minister of Commerce and Industry has launched the logo and tagline for the Geographical Indications (GI) of India.
  • The first product to get a GI tag in India was the Darjeeling tea in 2004.
  • The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 (GI Act) is a sui generis Act for protection of GI in India.
  • India, as a member of the WTO enacted the Act to comply with the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights
  • Geographical Indications protection is granted through the TRIPS Agreement

Festivals, Dances, Theatre, Literature, Art in News

Festival in news: Chithirai Festival

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Chithirai Festival

Mains level : Not Much

For the first time, in place of Madurai’s Chithirai Festival, a simple celestial union is set to take place that will be streamed online.

Match the pair based question can be asked from festivals as such. Recently, the following festivals were in the news: Ambubachi Mela, Thrisoor Puram, Meru Jatara, Nagoba Jatara etc.

Chithirai Festival

  • Chithirai Festival or Chithirai Thiruvizha is an annual celebration celebrated in the city of Madurai during the month of April.
  • It is celebrated during the Tamil month of Chithirai.
  • It lasts for one month of which the first 15 days mark the celebrations of the coronation of Goddess Meenakshi and the Marriage of Lord Sundareswara and Goddess Meenakshi.
  • The next 15 days mark the celebrations of the Journey of Lord Alagar from Kallazhagar temple in Alagar Koyil to Madurai.

About Meenakshi Temple

  • The ancient city of Madurai, more than 2,500 years old, was built by the Pandyan king, Kulashekarar, in the 6th century B.C.
  • But the reign of the Nayaks marks the golden period of Madurai when art, architecture and learning flourished expansively.
  • The most beautiful buildings in the city including its most famous landmark, the Meenakshi temple, were built during the Nayak rule.
  • Located in the heart of the city, the Meenakshi-Sundareshwarar temple is dedicated to goddess Meenakshi, the consort of lord Shiva.
  • The sculpted pillars are adorned with the exquisite murals that celebrate the ethereal beauty of princess Meenakshi and the scenes of her wedding with Lord Shiva.
  • The pillars depict scenes from the wedding of Meenakshi and Sundareswarar. There are 985 richly carved pillars here and each one surpasses the other in beauty.