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Current Events 27 April 2016

 

NEWS 

27th APRIL 2016 

GS II: HEALTH

Better sanitation key to free India of malaria

In its Eliminating Malaria report released on April 25, the World Health Organisation has set a malaria-free goal for 35 countries by 2030, but at the same time highlighted the challenge of handling Plasmodium vivax (P.vivax), a dominant strain of malaria parasite.

The WHO notes that P.vivax infections are more difficult to detect as the number of parasites circulating in the blood is typically low. The parasite can remain hidden and dormant in a patient’s liver, and can cause multiple episodes of malaria months, or even years, later.

Dr Neena Valecha, director of National Institute of Malaria Research, said: “In the case of P.vivax malaria, the patient is cured for that particular episode, but the infection can recur after three or six months, or one year, without a mosquito biting the person.” She said India has effective tools now — technological advances to detect P. vivax malaria, a good implementation plan, and also compliance of treatment — that would help it achieve the 2030 target. She also said drug resistance too was being monitored.

However, experts mapping malaria situation said that while setting an elimination goal was needed, there are basic concerns that need to be addressed, primary among them being better sanitation. Also, while a standardised procedure to treat P.vivax malaria is there on paper, not all doctors follow it, experts said.

Dr JP Jadwani, critical care consultant and cardiologist with Lilavati Hospital, said, “In our city, drug resistance has been there for the past 10 to 15 years. Chloroquine doesn’t work any more. We have been monitoring P.vivax for the past 10 years and how the virus has changed its nature.” He said that while P.vivax malaria was once considered mild to moderate, now all kinds of complications can be seen, and it needs to be treated more seriously.

He pointed out that follow up treatment was not correct in most cases. “The dose of the drug primaquine has to be adjusted as per body weight. The duration too has to be fixed. But not everybody is following standardised dose. Even in cases of falciparum malaria, primaquine should be given as it will stop transmitting of the infection from human to mosquitoes,” Dr Jadwani said.

Experts in the field of healthcare said that while deaths in Mumbai due to malaria have come down, there was a need to ensure all fevers are treated as malaria until proven otherwise to ensure both early diagnosis and early treatment.

The WHO noted in its report that in many areas where P. vivax predominates, mosquitoes bite outdoors and early in the evening. “As a result, conventional malaria control tools that work well against indoor-feeding and night-biting mosquitoes, such as indoor residual spraying and insecticide-treated nets, may be less effective against P.vivax,” the WHO said.

Healthcare providers note that in a city like Mumbai, containing malaria in general remains a concern as they routinely see cases that are linked to water stagnating in their surroundings.

Dr Om Srivastava, infectious diseases specialist with Jaslok Hospital, said, “Countries that have eliminated malaria have stringent health checks of migrants, and have their public health problems under control.” He said that India’s tackling of malaria cannot be gauged on the parameters of other countries. “So long as our waste disposal does not improve, the risk (of malaria) is always going to be there.”

GS II: REGULATORY BODIES-(SEBI)

Sebi issues clearances to commodity brokers

Nearly seven months after taking over as the commodity market regulator, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) has started issuing the first set of registrations for commodity brokers.

While official data shows that 144 entities have been registered as brokers in the commodity derivatives segment as on March 31,

Sebi officials say more than 400 entities have been granted registration to function as commodity brokers till date.

This is the first time that the capital markets regulator has disclosed data on the number of registered brokers in the commodity segment. There are nearly 3,200 registered brokers in the cash segment of the equity market.

“Post the merger of the FMC (Forward Markets Commission) with Sebi in September, commodity brokers were given three months’ to submit their applications for Sebi registrations. Nearly 1,500 applications were received,” said a person familiar with the matter. who declined to be identified as he is not authorised to speak to the media. “Almost all the existing members of commodity exchanges applied for membership and approvals are being given post the required scrutiny. All the applications will be processed in the next couple of months,” he added.

Brokers, however, say that the first set of approved entities mostly include the smaller players with standalone commodity broking business and no equity segment exposure. “We believe the initial lot includes those that do not have multiple market exposure since known names have not yet talked about getting Sebi registration,” said the chief of a south-based commodity brokerage. He has also applied for registration that is yet to be approved. “It is a matter of time before Sebi processes all the applications. The papers have already been vetted by the commodity exchanges and so we do not expect any issues related to compliance, etc,” he said.

Most large, well-known broking entities like Edelweiss Financial Services, Motilal Oswal Financial Services, IIFL, Angel Broking, ICICI Securities and Kotak Securities among others have equity and commodity arms.

Prior to the FMC-Sebi merger, such brokerages had to form two separate companies to function in the commodity and equity markets due to the presence of two separate regulatory bodies.

In the Union Budget for 2015-16, the government proposed the merger of FMC with Sebi to “strengthen the regulation of the commodity forward market and reduce wild speculation”.

The merger was formally notified on September 28, 2015.

The government move followed the Rs 5,575-crore settlement scam at the National Spot Exchange Ltd (NSEL). After the scam became public on July 31, 2013, the government in September 2013 moved the erstwhile FMC from the Consumer Affairs Ministry to the Finance Ministry.

The FMC-Sebi merger was also one of the recommendations of the Financial Sector Legislative Reforms Commission, which was formed to look into possible areas of reforms for financial sector regulations.

GS II: POLITY - JUDICIARY

HC notice to Gujarat, Centre on green policy covering Gir sanctuary

The Gujarat High Court  issued notices to the State and Central governments on a plea challenging the legality of Gujarat’s eco-sensitive zone policy restricting commercial constructions within 10 sq km peripheral buffer zone of the Gir lion sanctuary.

The notice was issued by a Division Bench of Chief Justice R Subhash Reddy and Justice VM Pancholi after the petitioner, owner of a Saavaj Resort, claimed the State government had no authority to formulate such a policy under Environment (Protection) Act as such power rests only with the Union government.

The government had prepared the policy in question in response to a suo motu petition filed in the HC in 2014 against illegal and haphazard constructions in and around the reserved forest areas.

The policy prevented construction activities for commercial purposes within 10 sq km peripheral buffer zone of the sanctuary. The government also banned setting up floodlights and electric fencing within the area.

The policy, however, could not be enforced as the matter is still pending before the High Court.

The petition  challenged the legality of the policy, contending that the government had contradicted itself on the issue through two separate resolutions issued by the Forest Department and the Home Department.

In its resolution issued in June 2009, the Forest Department had permitted hospitality units constructed before 2009 to continue within the buffer zone while the Home Department had issued a prohibitory order in 2010. — PTI

GS II: GOVERMENT SCHEMES

Gujarat wants PhD students to research govt schemes

The Gujarat Government wants PhD students in the state to do research on government schemes and has issued a list of possible topics to universities. But the move has drawn adverse reactions.

The Knowledge Consortium of Gujarat (KCG), an independent society headed by the commissioner of the state’s higher education department, has come out with the list of topics. AU Patel, adviser to KCG, said that the government has asked universities to suggest to students and their guides that they choose from the topics offered by it, so that the outcome of the research could be used to improve the schemes. “To conduct an independent evaluation of government schemes, KCG framed a range of topics on which students in our universities could conduct PhD. The study, survey, analysis, and overall outcome will help improve the schemes.”

Topics suggested for research include the Mahatma Gandhi Swachhata Mission, Kanya Kelavni, Gunotsav, Garib Kalyan Mela, Vajpayee Bankbable Yojna and Mukhyamantri Amrutam Yojna.

There are as many as fifty such topics, including helplines for women, an action plan for minorities through education, role of soya-fortified wheat atta in improving nutritional status, analysis of Gujarat’s development model, among others. Some academicians have said that the government should not ‘force’ subjects upon students and guides, and if somebody decides to do research on a government scheme, it should be conducted independently. “Every student has the freedom to propose topics,” said Aashir Mehta, an economics professor at the MS University of Baroda. “The government can suggest topics for research. It is acceptable only as long as it is not forced upon students. The Congress reacted sharply, saying this kind of research would never be independent. — PTI

GS II: POLITY - NATIONAL COURT OF APPEAL

Govt. cautions judiciary on NCA

After Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur’s emotional speech about the impossible burden of pendency and overwork, at a public function attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it was the government’s turn to warn the highest judiciary against wasting judicial time on “fruitless” endeavours like entertaining a PIL petition to set up a National Court of Appeal (NCA).

Appearing before a Bench led by Chief Justice Thakur, Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi argued strongly against the court referring the PIL petition to a Constitution Bench, even as Chief Justice Thakur said the objective was to suggest reforms and trim pendency.

Ushering in change

The PIL, filed by Chennai-based advocate V. Vasanthakumar, suggests setting up NCA with regional benches to act as final courts of justice in criminal and civil cases, thus reducing backlog in the apex court. “I am saying that this PIL should not even be entertained. It is completely fruitless to waste time like this when the court’s dockets are already full,” Mr. Rohatgi submitted.

Chief Justice Thakur said his court was only trying to usher in change.

“You are only adding to the lawyers’ pocket,” Mr. Rohatgi responded. “NCA will add one more level of adjudication and will not help decrease litigation. It will only end up being a boon to advocates. It will mean more expense and hardship to the litigant.”

In a strongly-worded affidavit, the Centre said the NCA cannot be seen from an “isolated perspective of reducing backlog of cases” alone. Mr. Rohatgi suggested systemic changes, rather than starting an entirely new system of appellate courts. Picking holes in the way appeals were admitted in the Supreme Court, the Centre’s affidavit said they should not be entertained in a “routine manner.”

The power conferred under Article 136 (special leave to appeal by the Supreme Court) of the Constitution should be invoked only in very exceptional circumstances. The Supreme Court’s authority to entertain appeals was part of the Basic Structure of the Indian Constitution. Bifurcation of the judiciary through NCA was a constitutional impossibility, Mr. Rohatgi said.

Clear signal

The Centre’s objection comes even as the Supreme Court, under the stewardship of Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur, has sent a clear signal to the government that it intended to push hard and pronounce a judgment on the constitutional viability of having an NCA. Amicus curiae and senior advocate K.K. Venugopal advised the court to seize the opportunity to reclaim its status as a constitutional court.

GS III: ECONOMY-(BTIA)

EU had offered India gradual, asymmetric elimination of tariffs

The European Union has said that it offered India the possibility of asymmetric and gradual elimination of tariffs in the car and car parts and wines and spirits sectors as part of the negotiations on the bilateral free trade agreement known as the BTIA (Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement). A continuing absence of agreement in these sectors has contributed to the lack of progress on the trade deal despite last month’s summit level talks between India and the EU.

“In terms of the car sector, in some cases, EU exporters face Indian import duties of up to 100 per cent on car and car parts,” Daniel Rosario, a European Commission spokesperson for trade told a delegation of journalists from India who are in Brussels as guests of the EU. “We suggested or agreed on long transitional periods for their elimination or even going as far as accepting an asymmetric elimination of these duties in favour of India.”

“The same goes for wines and spirits where our exporters face duties of up to 150 per cent and the proposal made in 2013 was for a gradual if not complete elimination of these duties, again taking into account Indian sensitivities,” Mr. Rosario said.

High priority

High on India’s priority list has been access to European markets for Indian service professionals (such as from the IT sector). This however does not seem imminent. “The evaluation that we made of the Indian proposal was that, yes, it would be difficult to accommodate the way it was expressed,” Mr. Rosario said. India has also been keen to obtain ‘data secure’ nation status from the EU, a classification that is crucial for the development of its IT and ITES sectors in Europe.

“This is one of the topics where we would be willing to narrow down the gaps between the sides, when things move ahead, when things move ahead and our representatives are able to sit down together,” Mr. Rosario said.

Essential pillar

In response to a question on whether a free trade deal with the EU would hamper access to medicines and India’s generic drugs industry, Mr. Rosario said, “Access to medicines is an essential pillar of the EU’s policy on intellectual property and this is fully taken into the negotiations [sic] with India, and the trade agreement we want to establish with India will not undermine India’s right to produce generic medicines either for domestic or international purposes.”

Responding to speculation on whether ‘Brexit’, Britain’s June 23 referendum on EU membership or the EU’s negotiations with the United States on a transatlantic bilateral trade agreement, the TTIP, were holding back trade talks with India, Mr. Rosario denied that this was the case. “Well, we have a round of talks with the United States, and we had … a round of talks with Japan on a free trade agreement. Life continues,” Mr. Rosario said. “We are well aware of this process taking place in the United Kingdom but we continue to conduct our business as usual.”

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