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September 2021

Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Disease surveillance system


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Integrated disease surveillance project

Mains level : Paper 2- Disease surveillance


A well-functioning system can reduce the impact of diseases and outbreaks.

Importance of disease surveillance system

  • Successful tackling of cholera in 1854 in London by use of the health statistics and death registration data from the General Registrar Office (GRO) started the beginning of a new era in epidemiology.
  • Importance of data: The application of principles of epidemiology is possible through systematic collection and timely analysis, and dissemination of data on the diseases.
  • This is to initiate action to either prevent or stop further spread, a process termed as disease surveillance.
  • Subsequently, the high-income countries invested in disease surveillance systems but low- and middle-income countries used limited resources for medical care.
  • Then, in the second half of the Twentieth century, as part of the global efforts for smallpox eradication and then to tackle many emerging and re-emerging diseases, many countries recognised the importance and started to invest in and strengthen the diseases surveillance system.
  • These efforts received a further boost with the emergence of Avian flu in 1997 and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2002-04.

Surveillance in India

  • The Government of India launched the National Surveillance Programme for Communicable Diseases in 1997.
  • However, this initiative remained rudimentary.
  • In wake of the SARS outbreak, in 2004, India launched the Integrated Disease Surveillance Project (IDSP).
  • The focus under the IDSP was to increase government funding for disease surveillance, strengthen laboratory capacity, train the health workforce and have at least one trained epidemiologist in every district of India.

Issues with surveillance: Interstate variation

  • Variation among states: The disease surveillance system and health data recording and reporting systems are key tools in epidemiology.
  • In the fourth round of serosurvey, Kerala and Maharashtra States could identify one in every six and 12 infections, respectively; while in States such as Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, only one in every 100 COVID-19 infections could be detected.
  • This points towards a weak disease surveillance system.
  • In a well-functioning disease surveillance system, an increase in cases of any illness would be identified very quickly.
  • While Kerala is picking the maximum COVID-19 cases; it could pick the first case of the Nipah virus in early September 2021. 
  • On the contrary, cases of dengue, malaria, leptospirosis and scrub typhus received attention only when more than three dozen deaths were reported and health facilities in multiple districts of Uttar Pradesh, began to be overwhelmed.

Way forward

  • A review of the IDSP in 2015, conducted jointly by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the Government of India and World Health Organization India had made a few concrete recommendations to strengthen disease surveillance systems.
  • These included increasing financial resource allocation, ensuring an adequate number of trained human resources, strengthening laboratories, and zoonosis, influenza and vaccine-preventable diseases surveillance.
  • Increase allocation: The government resources allocated to preventive and promotive health services and disease surveillance need to be increased by the Union and State governments.
  • Trained workforce: The workforce in the primary healthcare system in both rural and urban areas needs to be retrained in disease surveillance and public health actions.
  • The vacancies of surveillance staff at all levels need to be urgently filled in.
  • Capacity increase: The laboratory capacity for COVID-19 needs to be planned and repurposed to increase the ability to conduct testing for other public health challenges and infections.
  • The interconnectedness of human and animal health: The emerging outbreaks of zoonotic diseases, be it the Nipah virus in Kerala or avian flu in other States as well as scrub typhus in Uttar Pradesh, are a reminder of the interconnectedness of human and animal health.
  • The ‘One Health’ approach has to be promoted beyond policy discourses and made functional on the ground.
  • Strengthening registration system: There has to be a dedicated focus on strengthening the civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) systems and medical certification of cause of death (MCCD).
  • Coordination: It is also time to ensure coordinated actions between the State government and municipal corporation to develop joint action plans and assume responsibility for public health and disease surveillance.
  • The allocation made by the 15th Finance Commission to corporations for health should be used to activate this process.

Consider the question “Examine the measure for disease surveillance in India? How it can help reduce the impact of the diseases?”


We cannot prevent every single outbreak but with a well-functioning disease surveillance system and with the application of principles of epidemiology, we can reduce their impact.

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Climate Change Negotiations – UNFCCC, COP, Other Conventions and Protocols

A climate change narrative that India can steer


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : COP 26, Paris Agreement

Mains level : India's committment for Paris Agreement

A recent report by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) reveals that India has warmed up 0.7° C during 1901-2018.

What was the report?

Title: Assessment of Climate Change over the Indian Region (by MoES)

(a) Climate severity

  • The 2010-2019 decade was the hottest with a mean temperature of 0.36° C higher than average.
  • Heatwaves continued to increase with no signs of diminishing greenhouse gas emissions despite lower activity since the novel coronavirus pandemic.
  • India may experience a 4.4° C rise by the end of this century.
  • Within 2050, rainfall is expected to rise by 6% and temperature by 1.6° C.
  • India’s Deccan plateau has seen eight out of 17 severe droughts since 1876 in the 21st century (2000-2003; 2015-2018).

(b) Land degradation

  • To make things worse, India lost about 235 square kilometres to coastal erosion due to climate change-induced sea-level rise, land erosion and natural disasters such as tropical cyclones between 1990-2016.

(c) Rising Internal Displacement

  • According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, India’s Internally Displaced Populations (IDPs) are rising due to damaging climate events.
  • Uttarakhand residents began deserting their homes after the Kedarnath floods in 2013 due to heavy precipitation that increases every year.
  • Recent figures are more alarming with 3.9 million displaced in 2020 alone, mostly due to Cyclone Amphan.

India’s commitment to Climate Mitigation

  • India held the top 10 position for the second year in a row in 2020’s Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI).
  • The country received credit under all of the CCPI’s performance fields except renewable energy where India performed medium.
  • India vowed to work with COP21 by signing the Paris Agreement to limit global warming and submitted the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
  • It set a goal of reducing emissions intensity of GDP by 33%-35% and increasing green energy resources (non-fossil-oil based) to 40% of installed electric power capacity by 2030.
  • India cofounded with France at COP21, in 2015, the International Solar Alliance (ISA).

Core concern

(a) Good policies, weak practices

  • The question is, are these global alliances and world-leading policies being practised or are merely big promises with little implementation?
  • Despite leading ISA, India performed the least in renewable energy according to the CCPI’s performance of India.

(b) Low compliance

  • India is not fully compliant with the Paris Agreement’s long-term temperature goal of the NDCs and there are still risks of falling short of the 2° C goal.
  • According to India’s carbon emission trajectory, the country is en route to achieve barely half of the pledged carbon sink by 2030.
  • To achieve the Paris Agreement’s NDC target, India needs to produce 25 million-30 million hectares of forest cover by 2030 — a third of current Indian forestation and trees.
  • Going by the facts, it seems India has overpromised on policies and goals as it becomes difficult to deliver on the same.

Why COP26 matters

  • The Glasgow COP26 offers India a great opportunity to reflect on the years since the Paris Agreement and update NDCs to successfully meet the set targets.
  • India is expected to be the most populated country by 2027, overtaking China, contributing significantly to the global climate through its consumption pattern.
  • India is in a rather unique position to have a significant influence on global climate impact in the new decade.


  • India believes that climate actions must be nationally determined.
  • However, the Paris Agreement for developing countries should be at the core of decision-making.
  • India has the ability to improve its global positioning by leading a favourable climate goal aspiration for the world to follow.
  • The country has the opportunity to not only save itself from further climate disasters but also be a leader in the path to climate change prevention.

Back2Basics: COP26, Glasgow

  • The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, is the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference.
  • It is scheduled to be held in the city of Glasgow, Scotland between 31 October and 12 November 2021, under the presidency of the United Kingdom.
  • This conference is the first time that Parties are expected to commit to enhanced ambition since COP21.
  • Parties are required to carry out every five years, as outlined in the Paris Agreement, a process colloquially known as the ‘ratchet mechanism’.

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Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

Caste census of Backward Classes difficult: Centre


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Socio-economic Caste Census, 2021

Mains level : Subcategorization within OBCs in states

The government has made it clear in the Supreme Court that a caste census of the Backward Classes is “administratively difficult and cumbersome”.

About Socio-Economic and Caste Census

  • The SECC 2011 was conducted for the 2011 Census of India.
  • Then government approved the Socio Economic and Caste Census 2011 to be carried out after discussion in both houses of Parliament in 2010.
  • The SECC 2011 was conducted in all states and union territories of India and the first findings were revealed in July 2015.
  • SECC 2011 is also the first paperless census in India conducted on hand-held electronic devices by the government in 640 districts.
  • SECC 2011 was the first caste-based census since 1931 Census of India and it was launched on 29 June 2011 from the Sankhola village of Hazemara block in West Tripura district.

Issues with SECC

Ans. Data NOT available

  • The SECC data is stored in the Office of the Registrar General and had not been made official.
  • It cannot be used as a source of information for population data in any official document.

What did the Centre say?

  • The Centre reasoned that even when the census of castes were taken in the pre-Independence period, the data suffered in respect of “completeness and accuracy”.
  • It said the caste data enumerated in the Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) of 2011 is “unusable” for official purposes as they are “replete with technical flaws”.
  • The infirmities of the SECC 2011 data makes it unusable for any official purposes and cannot be mentioned as a source of information for population data in any official document.
  • Besides, the Centre said, it was too late now to enumerate caste into the Census 2021.

Why not OBCs?

  • Unlike the constitutional mandate for collection of census data on SCs and STs, there is no obligation to provide the census figures of OBCs.
  • The census data on SCs and STs are used for delimitation of electoral constituencies as well as for reservation of seats, as mandated under the Constitution.

Reason: Official discouragement of Caste

  • The center was replying to a writ petition filed by the State of Maharashtra to gather Backward Classes’ caste data in the State while conducting Census 2021.
  • The Centre clarified that exclusion of information regarding any other caste — other than SCs and STs — from the purview of the census is a “conscious policy decision”.
  • The government said caste-wise enumeration in the Census was given up as a matter of policy from 1951.
  • It said there was a policy of “official discouragement of caste”.

What is the plea about?

  • To Maharashtra’s plea to reveal the SECC 2011 “raw caste data” of Other Backward Classes (OBC), the Centre said the 2011 Census was not an “OBC survey”.
  • It was, on the other hand, a comprehensive exercise to enumerate the caste status of all households in the country in order to use their socio-economic data to identify poor households.

Why is the Centre reluctant?

  • The Centre explained that a population census was not the “ideal instrument” for the collection of details on caste.
  • There is a “grave danger” that the “basic integrity” of census data would be compromised.
  • Even the fundamental population count may get “distorted”.

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Foreign Policy Watch: United Nations

Why Brazil always speaks first at the UN General Assembly


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UNGA

Mains level : Mandate of the UN General Assembly

Every year since the 10th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in 1995, Brazil has been the first to address the delegation, followed by the United States.

About UNGA

  • The UNGA is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations (UN), serving as the main deliberative, policymaking, and representative organ of the UN.
  • Its powers, composition, functions, and procedures are set out in Chapter IV of the United Nations Charter.
  • It also establishes numerous subsidiary organs to advance or assist in its broad mandate.
  • The UNGA is the only UN organ wherein all member states have equal representation.

Why does Brazil always get to speak first?

  • Brazil has been the first speaker at the UNGA annual general debate for over six decades now.
  • While some assume that the order is determined alphabetically, this is not the case.
  • This tradition dates back to the early years of the United Nations, following its formation soon after the end of World War II.
  • In those days, most countries were reluctant to be the first to address the chamber.
  • Brazil, at the time, was the only country that volunteered to speak first.

So, why does the US go next?

  • In the list of speakers, the United States always goes second after Brazil as it is the host nation.
  • US President Joe Biden addressed the chamber on Tuesday, detailing his vision for a new era of diplomacy in his first-ever UNGA speech.

How is the order of the remaining speakers determined?

  • After the US and Brazil, the order of speakers depends on a number of factors.
  • Generally the order is determined by the rank of the representative — heads of state, heads of government, crown princes, and foreign ministers would be amongst the initial speakers, followed by deputies and ambassadors.
  • Other criteria like geographic balance also play a role in determining the order.

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Digital India Initiatives

SC introduces FASTER system to send records


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : FASTER system

Mains level : Resolving judicial pendency

The Supreme Court has given its nod for e-transfer of orders to jails through the FASTER system for quick prisoner release.

What is the FASTER system?

  • FASTER is an acronym form Fast and Secured Transmission of Electronic Records.
  • The system is meant to ensure that undertrials are not made to wait for days on end behind bars to be released because the certified hard copies of their bail orders took time to reach the prison.
  • It is conceived for delivery of orders to concerned prisons, District Courts, High Courts, as the case may be, for instantaneous delivery of orders passed by apex court through a secure communication channel.
  • The process to develop the FASTER system began with the CJI’s observations in court on July 16 this year.

Benefits offered

  • With FASTER, crucial decisions, including orders on bail and stay of arrest, can be communicated electronically to prison authorities and investigating agencies through a secure channel.
  • The system would also prevent unnecessary arrests and custody of people even after the court had already granted them its protection.
  • It may even communicate a stay on an execution ordered by the final court on time.

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Trade Sector Updates – Falling Exports, TIES, MEIS, Foreign Trade Policy, etc.

Service Exports from India Scheme (SEIS)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Service Exports from India Scheme (SEIS)

Mains level : Export promotion schemes in India

The Directorate General of Foreign Trade has imposed a cap on the total entitlement under the Services Exports from India Scheme (SEIS) at Rs 5 crore per exporter for shipments done in 2019-20 (FY20). The move is expected to benefit small businesses in the services sector.

About SEIS

  • Service Exports from India Scheme (SEIS) aims to promote export of services from India by providing duty scrip credit for eligible exports.
  • Under the scheme, service providers, located in India, would be rewarded under the SEIS scheme, for all eligible export of services from India.
  • SEIS was earlier termed as Served from India Scheme (SFIS).


  • Service Providers of notified services, located in India are eligible for the Service Exports from India Scheme.
  • To be eligible, a service provider (Company / LLP / Partnership Firm) should have a minimum net free foreign exchange earnings of USD 15000 in the preceding financial year to be eligible for duty credit scrips.
  • For proprietorships or individual service providers, minimum net foreign exchange earnings of USD10,000 in the preceding financial year is required to be eligible for the scheme.
  • Also, in order to claim reward under the SEIS scheme, the service provider shall have to have an active Import Export Code (IE Code) at the time of rendering such services for which rewards are claimed.

Back2Basics: Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS)

  • MEIS was launched with an objective to enhance the export of notified goods manufactured in a country.
  • This scheme came into effect on 1 April 2015 through the Foreign Trade Policy and was in existence till 2020.
  • It intended to incentivize exports of goods manufactured in India or produced in India.
  • The incentives were for goods widely exported from India, industries producing or manufacturing such goods with a view to making Indian exports competitive.
  • The MEIS covered almost 5000 goods notified for the purpose of the scheme.

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Renewable Energy – Wind, Tidal, Geothermal, etc.

[pib] International Hydropower Association (IHA)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : International Hydropower Association (IHA), Teesta River

Mains level : NA

NHPC’s 510 MW Teesta-V Power Station located in the Himalayan State of Sikkim has been conferred with the prestigious Blue Planet Prize by International Hydropower Association (IHA).

Teesta-V Power Station

  • The power station has been built, owned and being operated by NHPC.
  • The award has been conferred for its sustainability assessment undertaken by Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol (HSAP) of IHA.

About IHA

  • IHA is a London based non-profit membership association operating in 120 countries.
  • The IHA membership includes leading hydropower owners and operators, developers, designers, suppliers and consultants.
  • The IHA Blue Planet Prize is awarded to hydropower projects that demonstrate excellence in sustainable development.
  • The Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol (HSAP) is the leading international tool for measuring the sustainability of hydropower projects.
  • It offers a way to benchmark the performance of a hydropower project against a comprehensive range of environmental, social, technical and governance criteria.

Back2Basics: Teesta River

  • Teesta River is a 414 km long river that rises in the Pauhunri Mountain of eastern Himalayas, flows through the Indian states of Sikkim and West Bengal through Bangladesh and enters the Bay of Bengal.
  • It drains an area of 12,540 sq km.
  • In India, it flows through North Sikkim, East Sikkim, Pakyong District, Kalimpong district, Darjeeling District, Jalpaiguri District, Cooch Behar districts and the cities of Rangpo, Jalpaiguri and Mekhliganj.
  • It joins River Brahmaputra at Fulchhari in Bangladesh. 315 km portion of the river lies in India and rest in Bangladesh.
  • Teesta is the largest river of Sikkim and the second largest river of West Bengal after Ganges.

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