1. Justice N.V. Ramana set to take over as 48th CJI
Chief Justice Bobde makes formal recommendation to govt.
Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde has recommended Justice N.V. Ramana, the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court, as the next top judge.
The recommendation to the government was followed by the publication of a short statement on Wednesday, informing that Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy’s October 6 complaint to the CJI naming Justice Ramana was dismissed under an in-house procedure after due consideration.
“A complaint dated October 6, 2020, sent by the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh to the Supreme Court was dealt with under the In-House Procedure and the same, on due consideration, stands dismissed. It be noted that all the matters dealt with under the In-House Procedure being strictly confidential in nature, are not liable to be made public,” the statement, published on the Supreme Court website, said.
Mr. Reddy had complained that Justice Ramana was influencing the Andhra Pradesh High Court judiciary to destabilise his government. The complaint was sent shortly after a Bench led by Justice Ramana started hearing and fast-tracking hundreds of criminal cases against Ministers, legislators and politicians pending in trial courts across the country.
In an affidavit filed with the election nomination papers in 2019, Mr. Reddy had declared that there were 31 criminal cases pending against him with the CBI, the Enforcement Directorate and different police stations in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
Justice Ramana is now set to take over as the 48th Chief Justice of India from April 24. Chief Justice Bobde handed over a copy of his letter of recommendation to Justice Ramana on Wednesday after sending it to the government.
The Centre had recently asked Chief Justice Bobde, who is retiring on April 23, to initiate the transition process to the top judicial office.
Justice Ramana will be the CJI till August 26, 2022.
CJI AND POWERS
Appointment of Judges:
- The judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the president.
- The chief justice is appointed by the president after consultation with such judges of the Supreme Court and high courts as he deems necessary.
- The other judges are appointed by president after consultation with the chief justice and such other judges of the Supreme Court and the high courts as he deems necessary.
- The consultation with the chief justice is obligatory in the case of appointment of a judge other than Chief justice.
Conditions for Removal:
Retirement on completion of 65 years.
- Grounds for removal: proven misbehavior, incapacity
Controversy over Consultation
- The Supreme Court has given different interpretation of the word ‘consultation’ in the above provision.
- In the First Judges case (1982), the Court held that consultation does not mean concurrence and it only implies exchange of views.
- But, in the Second Judges case (1993), the Court reversed its earlier ruling and changed the meaning of the word consultation to concurrence.
- Hence, it ruled that the advice tendered by the Chief Justice of India is binding on the President in the matters of appointment of the judges of the Supreme Court.
- But, the Chief Justice would tender his advice on the matter after consulting two of his senior-most colleagues.
- Similarly, in the Third Judges case2 (1998), the Court opined that the consultation process to be adopted by the Chief justice of India requires ‘consultation of plurality judges’.
- The sole opinion of the chief justice of India does not constitute the consultation process.
- He should consult a collegium of four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court and even if two judges give an adverse opinion, he should not send the recommendation to the government.
- The court held that the recommendation made by the chief justice of India without complying with the norms and requirements of the consultation process are not binding on the government.
The 99th Constitutional Amendment Act of 2014 and the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act of 2014 have replaced the collegium system of appointing judges to the Supreme Court and High Courts with a new body called the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC). However, in 2015, the Supreme Court has declared both the 99th Constitutional Amendment as well as the NJAC Act as unconstitutional and void. Consequently, the earlier collegium system became operative again. This verdict was delivered by the Supreme Court in the Fourth Judges case2a (2015). The court opined that the new system (i.e., NJAC) would affect the independence of the judiciary.
Appointment of Chief Justice:
- From 1950 to 1973, the practice has been to appoint the seniormost judge of the Supreme Court as the chief justice of India.
- This established convention was violated in 1973 when A N Ray was appointed as the Chief Justice of India by superseding three senior judges.
- Again in 1977, M U Beg was appointed as the chief justice of India by superseding the then senior-most judge.
- This discretion of the government was curtailed by the Supreme Court in the Second Judges Case (1993), in which the Supreme Court ruled that the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court should alone be appointed to the office of the chief justice of India.
Qualifications of Judges:
A person to be appointed as a judge of the Supreme Court should have the following qualifications:
- He should be a citizen of India.
- He should have been a judge of a High Court (or high courts in succession) for five years
- He should have been an advocate of a High Court (or High Courts in succession) for ten years
- He should be a distinguished jurist in the opinion of the president. From the above, it is clear that the Constitution has not prescribed a minimum age for appointment as a judge of the Supreme Court.
Oath or Affirmation
A person appointed as a judge of the Supreme Court, before entering upon his Office, has to make and subscribe an oath or affirmation before the President, or some person appointed by him for this purpose. In his oath, a judge of the Supreme Court swears:
- to bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India
- to uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India
- to duly and faithfully and to the best of his ability, knowledge and judgement perform the duties of the Office without fear or favour, affection or ill-will
- to uphold the Constitution and the laws.
Tenure of Judges:
The Constitution has not fixed the tenure of a judge of the Supreme Court. However, it makes the following three provisions in this regard:
- He holds office until he attains the age of 65 years. Any question regarding his age is to be determined by such authority and in such manner as provided by Parliament.
- He can resign his office by writing to the president.
- He can be removed from his office by the President on the recommendation of the Parliament.
Jurisdiction & Powers Of Supreme Court:
The Constitution has conferred a very extensive jurisdiction and vast powers on the Supreme Court:
- Original Jurisdiction: As a federal court, the Supreme Court decides the disputes between different units of the Indian Federation. More elaborately, any dispute between: (a) the Centre and one or more states; or (b) the Centre and any state or states on one side and one or more states on the other; or (c) between two or more states. In the above federal disputes, the Supreme Court has exclusive original jurisdiction. Exclusive means, no other court can decide such disputes and original means, the power to hear such disputes in the first instance, not by way of appeal.
- Appellate Jurisdiction: As mentioned earlier, the Supreme Court has not only succeeded the Federal Court of India but also replaced the British Privy Council as the highest court of appeal. The Supreme Court is primarily a court of appeal and hears appeals against the judgements of the lower courts. It enjoys a wide appellate jurisdiction which can be classified under four heads: (a) Appeals in constitutional matters. (b) Appeals in civil matters. (c) Appeals in criminal matters. (d) Appeals by special leave.
- Advisory Jurisdiction: The Constitution (Article 143) authorises the president to seek the opinion of the Supreme Court in the two categories of matters: (a) On any question of law or fact of public importance which has arisen or which is likely to arise. (b) On any dispute arising out of any pre-constitution treaty, agreement, covenant, engagement, sanador other similar instruments.
What is the Collegium System?
The Collegium System is a system under which appointments/elevation of judges/lawyers to Supreme Court and transfers of judges of High Courts and Apex Court are decided by a forum of the Chief Justice of India and the four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court.’ There is no mention of the Collegium either in the original Constitution of India or in successive amendments.
The recommendations of the Collegium are binding on the Central Government; if the Collegium sends the names of the judges/lawyers to the government for the second time.
How Collegium System Works?
- The Collegium sends the recommendations of the names of lawyers or judges to the Central Government. Similarly, the Central Government also sends some of its proposed names to the Collegium. The Central Government does the fact checking and investigate the names and resends the file to the Collegium.
- Collegium considers the names or suggestions made by the Central Government and resends the file to the government for final approval. If the Collegium resends the same name again then the government has to give its assent to the names. But time limit is not fixed to reply. This is the reason that appointment of judges takes a long time.
2. ‘Define unfair trade practice for e-com’
Parliamentary panel warns Centre that predatory pricing will wipe out competition, hurt customers
A parliamentary panel has recommended that the government should offer a more clear-cut definition of what constitutes ‘unfair’ trade practice as well as spell out a practical legal remedy to tackle the issue, warning that there was a risk that predatory pricing by e-commerce firms may result in competition being wiped out and prove detrimental to consumers in the long run.
The panel, headed by Partap Singh Bajwa, in its report on ‘The Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020’ tabled in Parliament on Wednesday, has also recommended fixing a cap on delivery charges levied by e-commerce firms, as well as providing for penal provisions for violation of rules related to misinformation.
The committee noted that while e-commerce enterprises offer many benefits, the development of the segment has rendered consumers vulnerable to new forms of unfair trade practices, violation of privacy and issues of unattended grievances.
“Predatory pricing as a short-term strategy, adopted by some of the market giants with deep pockets to sustain short-term losses and reduce the prices of their products below the average variable costs may lead to wiping out competition from the market and could be detrimental to the consumers in the long run,” the committee said.
‘Difficult to prove’
It, however, added that from a legal standpoint it was very hard to substantiate allegations of predatory pricing, since the impact of such practice on the competition in the market would be very difficult to prove.
“The Committee, therefore, recommends that there should be a more clear-cut definition of what constitutes Unfair Trade Practice and practical legal remedy to tackle such circumventing practices by e-commerce entities specifically multinational companies and kirana small vendors.” The panel also suggested that the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution should issue broad guidelines for the fixation of delivery charges charged by the marketplace entities along with a cap on the highest limits of the delivery charges in peak hours of service.
“The Ministry should clearly distinguish in the rules itself the cases of misinformation, no information and the information which is otherwise correct but creates a false impression and provide for penal provision for each case in the rules itself,” it said.
The Ministry should also clearly define ‘drip pricing’— wherein the final cost of the product goes up due to additional charges, and provide for protecting consumers against this by including penal provisions for violation.
e-Commerce in India
- Electronic commerce or e-commerce is a business model that lets firms and individuals buy and sell things over the Internet.
- Propelled by rising smartphone penetration, the launch of 4G networks and increasing consumer wealth, the Indian e-commerce market is expected to grow to US$ 200 billion by 2026 from US$ 38.5 billion in 2017.
- India’s e-commerce revenue is expected to jump from US$ 39 billion in 2017 to US$ 120 billion in 2020, growing at an annual rate of 51%, the highest in the world.
- The Indian e-commerce industry has been on an upward growth trajectory and is expected to surpass the US to become the second-largest e-commerce market in the world by 2034.
Advantages of e-Commerce
- The process of e-commerce enables sellers to come closer to customers that lead to increased productivity and perfect competition. The customer can also choose between different sellers and buy the most relevant products as per requirements, preferences, and budget. Moreover, customers now have access to virtual stores 24/7.
- e-Commerce also leads to significant transaction cost reduction for consumers.
- e-commerce has emerged as one of the fast-growing trade channels available for the cross-border trade of goods and services.
- It provides a wider reach and reception across the global market, with minimum investments. It enables sellers to sell to a global audience and also customers to make a global choice. Geographical boundaries and challenges are eradicated/drastically reduced.
- Through direct interaction with final customers, this e-commerce process cuts the product distribution chain to a significant extent. A direct and transparent channel between the producer or service provider and the final customer is made. This way products and services that are created to cater to the individual preferences of the target audience.
- Customers can easily locate products since e-commerce can be one store set up for all the customers’ business needs
- Ease of doing business: It makes starting, managing business easy and simple.
- The growth in the e-commerce sector can boost employment, increase revenues from export, increase tax collection by ex-chequers, and provide better products and services to customers in the long-term.
- The e-commerce industry has been directly impacting the micro, small & medium enterprises (MSME) in India by providing means of financing, technology and training and has a favourable cascading effect on other industries as well.
Disadvantages of e-Commerce
- There is lesser accountability on part of e-commerce companies and the product quality may or may not meet the expectations of the customers.
- It depends strongly on network connectivity and information technology. Mechanical failures can cause unpredictable effects on total processes.
- Definite legislations both domestically and internationally to regulate e-commerce transactions are still to be framed leading to lack of regulation of the sector.
- At times, there is a loss of privacy, culture or economic identity of the customer.
- There is a chance of fraudulent financial transactions and loss of sensitive financial information.
- The Internet is borderless with minimum regulation, and therefore protecting intellectual property rights (IPR) on the Internet is a growing concern. There are currently several significant IPR issues including misuse of trademark rights.
Government Initiatives Regarding e-Commerce in India
- In February 2019, a draft National e-Commerce policy has been prepared and placed in the public domain, which addresses six broad issues of the e-commerce ecosystem viz. e-commerce marketplaces; regulatory issues; infrastructure development; data; stimulating domestic digital economy and export promotion through e-commerce.
- The Department of Commerce initiated an exercise and established a Think Tank on ‘Framework for National Policy on e-Commerce’ and a Task Force under it to deliberate on the challenges confronting India in the arena of the digital economy and electronic commerce (e-commerce).
- The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has decided to allow “interoperability” among Prepaid Payment Instruments (PPIs) such as digital wallets, prepaid cash coupons and prepaid telephone top-up cards. RBI has also instructed banks and companies to make all know-your-customer (KYC)-compliant prepaid payment instruments (PPIs), like mobile wallets, interoperable amongst themselves via Unified Payments Interface (UPI).
- FDI guidelines for e-commerce by DIPP: In order to increase the participation of foreign players in the e-commerce field, the Government has increased the limit of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the e-commerce marketplace model for up to 100% (in B2B models).
- Government e-Marketplace (GeM) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Union Bank of India to facilitate a cashless, paperless and transparent payment system for an array of services in October 2019.
- The heavy investment of Government of India in rolling out the fibre network for 5G will help boost e-commerce in India
- In the Union Budget of 2018-19, the government has allocated Rs 8,000 crore (US$ 1.24 billion) to BharatNet Project, to provide broadband services to 150,000-gram panchayats.
3. Ship blocks Suez Canal after running aground in sandstorm
Over 100 vessels stuck on both sides of the busy trade route
Tug boats worked on Wednesday to free a giant ship stuck in the Suez Canal after it veered off course in a sandstorm, creating huge tailbacks on one of the world’s busiest trade routes.
Egypt’s Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said it was working to refloat the Taiwan-run but Panama-flagged MV Ever Given, a 400-metre-long and 59-metre-wide vessel, which was lodged at an angle across the waterway. Historic sections of the canal were reopened to ease the bottleneck of marine traffic, with dozens of ships waiting on both Mediterranean and Red Sea sides.
The SCA said the ship was caught in a gale-force sandstorm, common in Egypt’s Sinai desert at this time of the year. It was “mainly due to the lack of visibility due to the weather conditions when winds reached 40 knots, which affected the control” of the ship, the SCA said in a statement.
Ship operator Evergreen Marine Corp told AFP that the Rotterdam-bound vessel “ran aground after a suspected gust of wind hit it”.
Shipping monitor MarineTraffic recorded that the vessel had been in the same position since at least Tuesday afternoon. SCA chairman Admiral Osama Rabie said on Wednesday that “rescue and tug units are continuing their efforts” to free the MV Ever Given, involving at least eight tugs.
Bloomberg reported that the situation had caused a build-up of more than 100 ships seeking to transit the canal. “There was a grounding incident,” Alok Roy, fleet director of BSM Hong Kong, the Ever Given ship manager, told the news agency.
Suez Canal had opened in 1869 connecting the Mediterranean and Red Seas. Initially, it was a private organization co-owned by French Investors and government in Egypt. However, in 1875, Egypt sold its shares to Britain. Though Suez Canal was primarily a commercial venture, Britain secured permission from Egypt to maintain a military presence in the Canal Zone just for the sake of reinforcing its status as World’s supreme naval power.
In 1952, Egyptian monarch King Farouk was overthrown by a bunch of disgruntled army officers led by Lieutenant General Muhammad Naguib. This is called the Egyptian Revolution of 1952. General Muhammad Naguib led this revolution along with Gamal Abdel Nasser. But later, there were disagreements between Naguib and Nasser and this led to Naguib’s forced removal from office.
From June 1956 to 28 September 1970, Gamal Abdel Nasser remained the second president of Egypt. During this period, while Naguib remained in jail, Nasser emerged as a charismatic leader of not only Egypt but also the Arab world. He was not only instrumental in the establishment of the Non-Aligned Movement but was also known for his nationalist policies and version of Arabic Socialism which is also known as Nasserism.
In the advocacy of his pan-Arab nationalism, Nasser took steps to strengthen his own country’s position in world, and accepting aid from any side if it would benefit some of his goals, regardless of who may become anger of these. Apart from that, in 1954, he brokered a seven-year treaty removing Britain’s military presence from the Canal Zone. He also cut off Israeli shipping through the Suez Canal and the Straits of Tiran; and supported rebels fighting French colonial forces in Algeria. Moreover, he bought weapons from both Britain and the USSR as his troops engaged in sporadic conflict with Israeli forces along their border.
In 1956, USA had agreed to give a loan to Egypt for construction of Aswan Dam on Nile River. The objective was to stop Soviet Influence in the region and increase US influence. However, within 6 months, USA backed out from the deal and prompted Britain and the World Bank also to withdraw their loans.
The furious president Nasser, seeing an opportunity to assert his independence from the colonial empires, announced that Egypt was taking over the Suez Canal and would use its income to finance construction of his dam. He was backed by Soviets and his own people.
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden quickly organized an international conference to find a diplomatic solution to the problem. They offered Egypt a seat on the board of the Suez Canal Company, among other concessions. Nasser refused. The United States made its own proposal to the United Nations, creating a new international consortium to operate the canal. The Soviet Union vetoed it.
European nations recalled how appeasement had led directly to World War II and didn’t want to make that same mistake again. Britain was ready to deal with Nasser by force, but the United States would not condone unjustified military action. So Britain, France and Israel secretly agreed on a plan. Israel would attack, and as soon as the battle was within ten miles of the water, Britain and France would ‘intervene’ and seize the canal to protect it from the fighting. They also hoped to depose Nasser, while Israel wanted rights of passage through the waterways.
Israel attacked first on October 29, 1956. A few days later, Britain and France entered the fray. By the morning of November 6, British and French troops had successfully invaded the Canal Zone. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev threatened nuclear strikes on Europe if the hostilities did not end immediately. Canada’s Prime Minister Lester Pearson desperately tried to intervene, to no avail. Till now US was in background, but after the Soviet threat of Nuclear strike, US jumped into fray and new US President Eisenhower reacted to this as that “if those fellows start something, we may have to hit ’em—and, if necessary, with everything in the bucket.”
However, the position of United States was delicate. Britain was a strong ally, but Eisenhower had distanced himself from European colonial conflicts throughout his re-election campaign. Yet, he was clearly concerned about the Soviet Union; just a few days before the Suez Crisis, the US had condemned Soviet intervention in a Hungarian revolt. Eisenhower had no desire to see Soviet influence spread into the Middle East.
Although British military advisors assured Prime Minister Eden that they would control the entire length of the canal within 24 hours, he backed down. His economy was slipping and America wouldn’t help, and public support even within Britain was deeply divided. Eden called a ceasefire the night of November 6. British and French forces withdrew in December, and Israel fell back in March. In the meantime, the first United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) was authorized and deployed to the region. By 1957, the occupation of Suez Canal ended.
Implications of 1956 Suez Crisis
There were several far reaching outcomes of Suez Crisis. Firstly, despite his military defeat, Egyptian President Nasser was a hero in the Arab world – the man who had called the bluff of the imperial powers. His nation won operational control of the Suez Canal, although he had to pay reparations. Secondly, Soviet Premier Khrushchev was emboldened, writing in his memoirs that nuclear brinksmanship was a successful tool against Western powers. He also avoided serious repercussions for his actions in Hungary and strengthened Soviet influence in the Middle East. Thirdly, France and Britain were humiliated, showing that they were no longer world powers, and rapidly lost control of their remaining colonies in the coming years. In reality, this crisis gave a final blow to Britain’s self-image as a world’s mightiest naval power. British Prime Minister Eden resigned, but in his memoirs, claimed he had averted a much larger crisis in the Middle East in which Egypt planned to invade Israel while the Soviet Union invaded Syria. Fourthly, Israel regained access to the Straits of Tiran. But historians point to the lack of a distinct peace treaty as paving the way for the 1967 Six Day War between Israel and three Arab neighbors.
Fifthly, the United States Congress approved the so called Eisenhower Doctrine. This provided funding and presidential authority to assist Middle East nations fighting Soviet influence. The U.S. also improved its relationship with Egypt.
UN peacekeepers remained in Egypt for nearly a decade, until expelled by Nasser on the eve of his next invasion of Israel.
4. TB notifications fall due to pandemic disruptions
Decrease of 24% compared to 2019
In 2020, there were 18.05 tuberculosis notifications, which was a fall of 24% from 2019 due to the disruptions caused by the pandemic, according to the India TB report released by the Health Ministry on Wednesday.
The report said between January and February 2020, the notifications were on an upward trajectory, with 6% more cases reported in the same period in 2019.
“As a result of the lockdown, notifications in the public sector fell by 38% and 44% in the private sector in April and May. Of the reported 24.04 lakh TB cases in 2019, treatment success was 82%, mortality rate was 4%, 4% patients were lost to follow up and treatment failure and regimen change after initiation of treatment was about 3%,’’ said the report.
It said the approved budgets toward the programme have increased substantially, from ₹640 crore in 2016-17 to ₹3,333 crores in 2019-20, however, there was a fall in budget to ₹3,110 crore in 2020-21.
As per the report over 95% of all cases reported were initiated on treatment in 2020 and the treatment success rate for patients reported in 2019 was 82% (83% among patients in the public sector and 79% in the private).
The report said 20,892 (42%) of patients were initiated on a shorter MDR-TB regimen at the time of diagnosis. “This is a significant decline from 2019,” said the report.
Tuberculosis (TB) is generally defined as a dangerous bacterial infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which most often affects the lungs and later might spread to different parts of the body.
Types of Tuberculosis (TB)
- Pulmonary Tuberculosis.
- Extrapulmonary Tuberculosis.
Causes of Tuberculosis
- Tuberculosis is a contagious airborne disease, which can be acquired from close contact with an infected person.
- Mycobacterium Tuberculosis is one of the main causes of this dreadful infectious disease.
- Infants and aged people are at a greater risk of catching TB infections.
- Individuals with a weak immune system due to HIV, diabetes are quickly exposed to this infectious disease.
- Mycobacterium Tuberculosis is a pathogenic bacterial species and mainly comprises of four other types of TB-causing bacteria namely:
|Mycobacterium Bovis||Mycobacterium Canetti|
|Mycobacterium Microti||Mycobacterium Africanum|
Diagnosis of Tuberculosis
Apart from all the physical tests, other tests are available to diagnose the presence of the infectious bacteria. These tests include certain body fluids test – blood and sputum, skin test and chest X-rays.
- Blood Test: In this procedure, blood samples are collected and are tested in the laboratories for the presence or absence of TB germs in the blood cells.
- Skin Test: It is the most common type of test. In this procedure, a small sample of Tuberculin – a purified protein is injected under the patient’s skin. If the skin around the site of the injection gets swollen more than five millimetres then it is a clear indication of TB infection. This test is called the Mantoux tuberculin skin test (TST).
Symptoms of Tuberculosis
TB bacteria or Mycobacterium tuberculosis most commonly grow in the lungs and can cause severe symptoms such as:
|Coughing with blood||Bad cough for more than 3 weeks||Fatigue & weakness|
|Night sweats||Chest pain||Weight loss|
|Loss of appetite||Sudden and random c hills||Fever|
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Treatment for Tuberculosis
- Drug treatment is one of the most efficient ways to treat this infectious disease.
- For patients with Latent TB infections, doctors generally prescribe an antibiotic called isoniazid for preventing the latent infection from becoming active.
- Active TB Diseases will be deadly if it is left untreated.
- The procedure involves taking a combination of ethambutol, INH, priftin and pyrazinamide for a term of three months followed by a mix of INH and pyrazinamide for 12 months.
There is a global concern about the Multi-Drug Resistant TB (MDR-TB) which emerges in the host body due to lack of treatment drug; and the bacteria is not eradicated completely from the body due to interrupted course of antibiotic medicine.
- Since the bacteria are resistant to the first-line anti-TB drugs, the host is treated with second-line anti-TB drugs.
There exists an Extensively Drug resistance TB (XDR-TB) which is developed in the host body due to the high concentration of TB in an area making it very difficult to control. The XDR-TB bacteria strain is resistant to one or two medicines in the second-line antibiotic treatment.
Poor management at this state may lead to further mutation in bacteria leading to complete drug resistance known as Total Drug Resistance TB (TD
India and Tuberculosis
- India stands at the top when it comes to TB, with more than 2 million cases reported in 2018.
- The Indian Government encourages new tools that will aid TB Research and Development (R&D) and discards the ones that won’t benefit the system.
- The Government of India intends to come up with plans in collaboration with the Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Health and other research-oriented pharmaceutical companies in order to reach targets of TB elimination in the country.
- Case-finding campaigns have been taken into consideration to avoid delay in the detection of TB.
Government Schemes for Tuberculosis
The Government of India has set a target of Zero-Tuberculosis deaths by the year 2025. In order to commit to that, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has formulated the National Strategic Plan (NSP) for TB Elimination in 2017. The National Strategic Plan will guide the development of the national project implementation plan (PIP) and state PIPs, as well as district health action plans (DHAP) under the National Health Mission (NHM).
National Strategic Plan (NSP) for TB Elimination
It is a framework to guide all the activities of all stakeholders including the national and the state governments, developmental partners, civil society organizations, international agencies, research institutions, the private sector and the other stakeholders whose work is relevant to the elimination of TB in India. This program works on four strategic pillars, as mentioned below, DTPB.
VISION: TB-Free India with zero deaths, disease and poverty due to tuberculosis.
GOAL: To achieve a rapid decline in the burden of TB, morbidity and mortality while working towards the elimination of TB in India by 2025.
Pillars of NSP for TB Elimination: Detect – Treat – Prevent – Build [DTPB]
Features of the National Strategic Plan for
- Complete detection of TB cases by 2020 followed by 100% elimination of TB by 2025.
- The Conditional Access Program (CAP) has introduced an Anti-TB Drug named Bedaqualine
- Under the Make in India program, development of a first-line anti-TB drug was proposed in the public sector.
- A corpus fund for TB to be maintained under the Bharat Kshay Niyantran Pratishthan (BKNP) which is also known as the India TB control foundation is one of the visions of this NSP.
- It aims at creating synergy through a shift from a regulatory approach to a partnership approach to streamline the services in the largely unorganized and unregulated private sector.
- Technological implementation by creating a user-friendly online platform E-Nikshay to let doctors notify the cases as soon as they come across the infected patient.
- Awareness about TB and its prevention among masses is important. Media campaigns are planned under this program to promote TB Preventive measures. Swasth E- Gurukul is one such initiative of the World Health Organization.
The overwhelming challenge facing TB control in India remains delayed diagnosis and inadequate treatment, particularly among patients seeking care from private providers. The plan aims to detect and treat 100% of the TB cases and at the same time prevent further spread of the disease by building & strengthening the policies in this direction.
5. Editorial-1: Assessing India’s counter to ‘diminishing democracy’
New Delhi has engaged its international critics not on facts but on values, and must now make its position clear
The first three weeks of March saw major developments in the ongoing drama over international assessment of how New Delhi has overseen the functioning of Indian democracy in the recent past. There were the annual reports of the United States-based Freedom House and the Sweden-based V-Dem Institute, which downgraded and redesignated Indian democracy. And farmers’ safety and curbs to press freedom in the context of the ongoing protests by farmers were debated in the British Parliament.
New Delhi has hit back. But how do we assess its response? Consider three elements.
First, there is decidedly a new approach. Something more layered is replacing the reliance on hard sovereignty. While the establishment continues to underline the internal nature of the issues raised, it is also beginning to counter the criticisms aggressively. The strongest evidence of this yet came from a discussion in the Rajya Sabha, on March 15, 2021, on racism in the United Kingdom. It appeared to implicate everyone, from the royals to society at large, in systemic racism. India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar noted the concern on behalf of the government and made the assurance that it would be taken up with the U.K. even as India would ‘monitor these developments very, very closely’.
Earlier, on March 9, 2021, in response to the debate in the U.K. Parliament on the ‘safety of farmers’ and ‘press freedom’ in India, the Indian High Commission in London had noted the ‘need to set the record straight’ regardless of claims of ‘friendship and love for India’ professed by anyone. The statement was brash, while the location from which it was released was symbolically significant.
The response is also becoming fine-tuned. The London statement called India ‘the largest functioning democracy in the world’. The key word here was ‘functioning’. The emphasis had moved from the size of Indian democracy to its quality. What it was insinuating at became clear with Mr. Jaishankar’s remark made in Chennai on March 13, 2021: ‘Look at the politics of these places… whatever you might say… in this country [India] nobody questions an election. Can you say that in those countries?’The reference obviously was to the United States. Further, the London statement mentioned India’s ‘well-established independent democratic institutions’. This formulation sought to counter the allegations that authority has become increasingly personalised in India. It asserted the apparent autonomy of Indian institutions.
Finally, it has sought to narrow down the scope of the issue and belittle its opponents. A statement by the Ministry of External Affairs on February 3, 2021, arguably put out in response to the celebrity tweets, claimed that a ‘very small section of farmers in parts of India’ had ‘some’ reservations about the farm reforms. It also referred to international critics as ‘fringe elements’ and linked them to desecration of Gandhi statues. This was built upon in the London statement. It referred to the discussion as involving ‘a small group’ of parliamentarians in ‘a limited quorum’.
A favourable global situation
Second, the assertiveness in the establishment’s response is partly because India currently enjoys a favourable international constellation. Relatively speaking, the novel coronavirus pandemic has spared India and allowed the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer (by number of doses produced and sold globally) to engage in vaccine diplomacy and position itself as an ‘internationalist’ actor. Here, New Delhi has attempted a transference of latitude, leveraging the goodwill generated by ‘Vaccine Maitri’ to counter the criticisms. Thus, in Chennai, Mr. Jaishankar asked what the (presumably western) critics of the Delhi regime had done in comparison with India’s critical health aid to 70 countries. The fact that the western countries have struggled to cope effectively with the pandemic and remain inconsistent as well as, as in Europe, divided in their governmental and medical responses, also makes India look coherent and ‘functional’.
Further, the contemporary crisis within western democracies is deep rooted. While it eludes resolution, the fact is that it has robbed western governments of the reputational privilege and the moral right to criticise what they view as assaults on liberal democratic values. We see governments quiet but streets and legislators vocal. This factor, coupled with their need for India for economic, environmental, and geopolitical reasons, offers New Delhi considerable space for an aggressive response.
Finally, the conservative allies in western countries that New Delhi has likely cultivated have also helped it undercut international criticism. Recall the October 2019 visit to Kashmir of about two dozen largely right-wing Members of European Parliament. Further, a quick review of the remarks of Conservative UK MPs Bob Blackman and Theresa Villiers on contentious issues concerning India over the past nearly two years will be revealing. In fact, Ms. Villiers’ statement during the U.K. parliamentary discussion in early March was remarkably understanding of New Delhi’s position.
Key question unanswered
Third, the question of the effectiveness of its response. How substantive is New Delhi’s counter? In part, as Mr. Jaishankar’s remarks in Chennai showed, it has met facts with rhetoric. In addition, it has questioned the practice of western institutions and civil society of judging and criticising those political processes in non-western democracies that do not match up to western standards. The objection is useful insofar as it checks sorry remnants of western cultural arrogance as well as ‘knowledge imperialism’. But it does not address the fundamental point of the critics, which is that human dignity and freedoms are universal and an assault on them anywhere is an assault on them everywhere.
New Delhi was well within its rights to offer the sovereignty shrug and say it did not care. But it has engaged the critics, not on facts but on values. And now it must make its position clear. If it does not believe that these values apply to all human beings everywhere, regardless of the society and culture in which they find themselves, then it can state it unambiguously. This would deprive its critics of the moral basis for their criticism.
At the Munich Security Conference in February last year, Mr. Jaishankar argued that democracy and the West should not be equated, implying that there are different types of democracies. Fair point. But the Minister did not pursue the thought fully. His South Korean counterpart did. Speaking after him, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Korea Kang Kyung-wha said: ‘South Korea is West if you are going by values… Instead of talking about the West let’s talk about the values that we are trying to prove.’ This is an approach worth considering. For in order to effectively counter its critics, the establishment must first confront itself.
6. Editorial-2: Tactical abstention
India was keen not to lose diplomatic space to persuade Sri Lanka on devolution for Tamils
By abstaining from the vote on the UN Human Rights Council resolution on Sri Lanka, India has signalled its unwillingness to upset its neighbour. At the same time, it does not want to be seen as ignoring Sri Lanka’s reluctance to meet the political aspirations of the Tamils or endorsing the country’s stubborn refusal to ensure any sort of accountability for its war-time past. It may be easy for the political opposition to dismiss India’s abstention as showing an intent to shield Sri Lanka from a credible investigation into allegations of war crimes. A more reasonable assessment would be that India seems to have utilised the opportunity to preserve its diplomatic space and to contain the pervasive influence of China over Sri Lanka even while maintaining its support for the Tamil minority to achieve equality, justice, dignity and peace. India has not been comfortable with externally mandated investigative mechanisms. Even when it voted in 2012 in favour of a credible investigation into human rights, India had got the resolution to incorporate the need for Sri Lanka’s ‘concurrence’ to any assistance that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights may offer in such a probe. In this session and just ahead of the vote, India stressed on both meaningful devolution to meet Tamil aspirations and the unity and integrity of Sri Lanka — aspects that it believes are not an ‘either-or’ choice.
The resolution comes amidst disturbing signs that Sri Lanka is regressing into the days of democratic deficit seen prior to the 2015 elections. Unfortunately, the present regime withdrew from the commitments made to the UNHRC by its predecessor on constructive engagement with the international community, and the consensual resolution on justice and accountability. The UN High Commissioner’s report raises concern over increasing militarisation, heightened surveillance against rights defenders and NGOs, interference with the few prosecutions in emblematic cases from the past, and the dangerous anti-minority rhetoric. India’s concerns in Sri Lanka have always been different from the rest of the international community, informed by a sense of the long-term well-being of the Tamils, and that power-sharing does foster reconciliation. Hence its emphasis on devolution rather than accountability. It is clear that India has its own limitations in expressing disappointment over the island nation’s move away from reconciliation and devolution. It continues to be weighed down by the Chinese presence in the region. Even the need to be in accord with sentiment in Tamil Nadu in the midst of an election was not motivation enough for India to change its position from tactical neutrality to one of open support for the resolution. When pragmatism and principle were needed in equal measure, the Centre seems to have chosen abstention as an easy way out.
7. Editorial-3: Water, the looming frontier
There are only two unpolluted fresh water sources left in the country, which we must conserve and use
While we are still in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is airborne, we have forgotten that another such blight could well come from contaminated water. NITI Ayog and WaterAid, amongst others, have found that over 70% of India’s surface and groundwater is contaminated by human and other waste and is likely to carry viruses. Indiscriminate human activity is often the reason for environmental degradation and pandemics. The practice of keeping animals locked together for mass production of meat produces an artificial environment that can birth mutations in erstwhile dormant viruses. Earlier, in the wild, animals were far away from human habitats. The viruses they harboured remained isolated. But today’s practices can spawn viruses that can easily transfer to the human population.
A source of virus
Once the virus has found its way into the human population, it is bound to proliferate in wastewater. For example, in England, Wales and Scotland, several wastewater samples were tested and were found to carry traces of SARS-CoV-2. Remnants of the virus have also been detected in raw sewage across Sydney. Research at the University of Stirling in Scotland indicates that the SARS-CoV-2 virus can spread through sewage water.
But such water is often discharged into water bodies in India. This is an alarming prospect for us as river water or lake water, which carries human waste, sewage, and toxic waste, can be a very generous host for viruses of different kinds and we do not know where and how they can mutate and strike. Some water-transmitted viral pathogens are astrovirus, hepatitis A and norovirus. Unlike in the developed world, a huge section of the population in India uses polluted water from sources like rivers, lakes, or groundwater for drinking.
Are we prepared for this? Certainly not. Can we be prepared? Very unlikely, even if we understood the viruses, and we are not there yet. Can we decontaminate our water bodies and groundwater? This could take several decades. But despite the poor quality of water in India, the government has announced a ₹3 lakh crore ‘Nal se Jal’ scheme to provide drinking water connections to every rural household by 2024. Since most of the water sources are contaminated, the only way to purify water is through reverse osmosis (RO). But though RO removes contaminants, it also takes out all the healthy minerals and nutrients required by the human body. This is an unhealthy and exorbitantly priced proposition. To neutralise the virus, we would need at least an ultraviolet aquaguard treatment. While this won’t take out chemical contaminants, it is also costly.
So, what is the solution? The simple answer is that there is no technological substitute for living natural resources like pristine natural water and soil. This means that we must conserve and use our natural living resources. The water beneath our forests is as good as natural spring water. We must safeguard it for our own lives and for future generations. We have destroyed our natural living resources in our rush for development. Our development model is always focused on artificial infrastrusture, building highways, industrial plants, high-rise structures. In doing this, we kill our natural resources. As a result, we are running out of natural infrastructure at an alarming pace. Let’s not forget that developed countries have stable landscapes and populations whereas India has a growing population, which means there will be growing consumption.
There are two unpolluted fresh water sources left in the country. The first is the water lying below our forests; the second is the aquifers that lie below the floodplains of rivers. Both these sources provide natural underground storage and are renewable – the rains provide natural recharge year after year and it is this recharge which can be used to water our cities and towns. There is one sacred conservation condition: we should use only a fraction of the annual recharge.
The aquifers underlying forests can provide healthy mineral water purely for drinking purposes. Since a person drinks only 2-3 litres of water a day, the mineral water requirement is modest. The river floodplains are a great source of water for cities. The Yamuna floodplains in Delhi already use such a scheme to provide water to a million people each year. Forests and floodplains must be declared as water sanctuaries. Such schemes work with nature rather than against it. They can be used around the globe. It is important to remember that these evolutionary resources, once lost, will be lost forever. It is time we understood this is natural infrastructure bequeathed to us by nature. If we don’t realise this, it will only be our loss.