Categories
Polity & Governance Programs & Policies Science & technology

Net neutrality concept demystified

Why in news?

What is it?

  • Net Neutrality  is the idea that broadband Internet Service Providers should treat everything that flows across the Internet equally. Since we get the same internet speed for all websites, user should not be charged differentially by content, site, platform, application etc.
  • All data travels on cables with the same priority. Service providers should not be allowed to manipulate the data flowing to their customers. Open net access should be seen as a basic right that all should enjoy.

Advantages ?

  • Creates a level-playing field for all  websites as it will be delivered with same connection speed.
  • Freedom of speech and access to user.
  • No censorship.
  • Service providers cannot change the download or upload transfer rates depending on what people are accessing.
  • Ensures that Internet remains a free and open technology.

Criticism ?

  • Wealthy companies can buy priority access which would deter innovative start up services.
  • Service providers do not want it as they need the ability to charge because without it they will not be able to invest in and update net infrastructure.                                                                                                         Quoting Sunil Mittal “If we have to build the highways, there has got to be a tax on highways”.
  • It puts the government in charge of determining internet pricing, terms of service, and what types of products and services can be delivered.

Net neutrality in India?

  • Legally, the concept of net neutrality doesn’t exist in India. TRAI promotes it, but no law to enforce it.
Categories
Art & Culture History

Ancient Indian Physicians – important contributions

PM has been reading Dina Nath Batra certainly. He has been unequivocally rooting for Ancient Indian medicine practices and practitioners. UPSC too might be in awe of Modi , and might as well ask us to list some of them and their contributions.

Jivaka

  • belonged to Bihar, 6th century BC – contemporary of Bimbisara and Ajatsatru.
  • studied Ayurveda medicine under the tutelage of Atreya.
  • was the personal physician of Lord Buddha and Sangha.
  • promoted usage of purgatives, herbal remedies for wounds.
  • works illustrated in Bower’s Manuscript, Deepvamsa , Mahavamsa.

Sushruta

  • from Banaras, debate around which time period he existed.
  • known as father of Indian medicine and first plastic surgeon of the world. Greeks called him Sucruta.
  • studied human anatomy in great detail.
  • wrote the oldest treatise on surgery – Sushrut Samhita. It has details about surgical instruments , surgery procedures like rhinoplasty , usage of anesthesia etc.
  • emphasized the importance of balancing theoretical knowledge with practical experience.

Charaka

  • known as Father of Medicine ,debate around which time period he existed.
  • Was an Ayurveda practitioner.
  • Author of Charaka Samhita – deals with physiology, etiology, embryology etc. Emphasis on physical examination and rational cure of diseases.
  • Emphasized on the principle  that  prevention is better than cure.
  • Wrote extensively on digestion, metabolism, immune system, genetics like the factors responsible for sex of a child.
  • probably the first to have made a reference about smallpox.
  • steered Indian medicine towards scientific approach , away from the notions that diseases are caused by supernatural forces and that treatments were possible by rituals and prayers.

Nagarajuna

  • believed to be an alchemist who worked extensively with mercury, and advocated the use of chemical cures rather than preparations made from herbs and vegetables.
  • described details of the circulatory system, and referred to blood as rakta dhatu.
  • made many specially concocted chemicals with therapeutic value called  bhasmas.
  • redacted sushruta samhita.
  • major works in the field of medicine and alchemy include Vigraha Vyavar Vartika , Rasa Ratnakar.

Vagabhatta

  • Vagabhatta I – chief work was Ashtanga Samgraha , a treatise on ayurvedic medicine, therapautics, hygiene, anatomy, surgery and other allied subjects. Emphasized the importance of personal hygiene to good health, and introduced the importance of combating pollution by elaborating the role of contaminated river water in adversely affecting health.
  • Vagabhatta II – wrote Ashtanga Hridaya Samhita

Madhavacharya

  • around 7th century AD.
  • Rugvinischaya or Madhavanidana is his most prominent work.
  • dealt with methods of diagnosis of diseases, pathology.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
International Relations

Katchatheevu Island, India – Sri Lanka Fishermen Issue, and Impact on Bilateral Ties – Pointwise

One of the main bones of contention in the diplomatic domain remains the issue of fishermen in the region, with both the governments not being able to reach any concrete and once-and-for-all resolution as yet.

Why in news recently?

  • protest against EU ban on seafood exports from Sri Lanka.
  • persistent protest from northern fishers against Indian trawlers.

What troubles the fisherman community ?

  1. Fishermen prefer to go towards the Katchatheevu Island area in the strait, where fish reserves are said to be abundant due to presence of deep waters and the rocky formation. For Sri Lankan fishermen it is within their maritime boundary whereas for the Indian fishermen, crossing the boundary makes their act illegal. Sri Lanka does not like Indian fishermen fishing close to the Sri Lankan coast of Point Pedro, Delft and other coastal areas. Also, sea along the Indian side remains shallow and possibilities of huge fish catch remain very minimal.
  2. Trawling affects seaweeds and corals and less catch is available for fishers on overlapping territorial waters. The steady upsurge of Indian trawlers is partly due to the relief funds doled out to Indian fishermen in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami.
  3. EU Ban of Lankan fisheries products in order to clamp down on illegal fishing  has adversely affected their livelihood. Failure by SL to implement obligations under UNCLOS.
  4. Small fishers are restricted to shores and lack of technology hinders their catch and livelihood. Indian fishermen with technological aid, decrease their livelihoods opportunities.
  5. Tamil Nadu had provided moral support to Tamils in their fight with the Lankan government leading to hostility. The recent death penalty for five Indian fishermen for drug smuggling added on to the problems.
  6.  Sri Lankan side of palk strait is rich in tuna , prawns and the Indian fishermen cross over with disregard to the restrictions imposed by the Indian Navy and thus attacks are carried out by the Sri Lankan Navy.

Possible solutions?

  1. Provision of bringing in the licensing system whereby Indian fishermen could be permitted to fish in Sri Lankan waters in specified areas or on specified days and vice versa.
  2. India should regulate trawlers and discourage them from crossing the boundary and from Sri Lankan side they have stopped the false charges by coming out of LTTE issue.
  3. Political will  to ensure that the rights of both the countries fishermen are protected within the respective territorial jurisdiction.
  4. The use of technology like the Global positioning System (GPS), RADAR navigation system, Automatic Identification System (AIS) in coastal areas whenever they cross into another country’s waters.
  5. Instituting a Palk Bay Authority for devising an integrated solution to the fishermen‘s problems encompassing their livelihood issues and commerce in the area.
  6. India should provide technical advisory support to set up processing units for fishery products and promote other income generating activities in the agro-allied sectors.
  7. State should subsidize schemes for fishermen to procure deep-sea fish.

Given the serious issues of livelihood on both sides of the Strait and the issue impacting Indo-Sri Lanka bilateral relations, authorities on both sides must act decisively.

 

 

Categories
International Relations

India – Nepal hydel cooperation , PTA PDA – challenges and solutions

Nepal has endorsed the Power Trade Agreement (PTA) with India and also inked the Project Development Agreement (PDA) with Indian private company GMR.

Let us take a holistic view at the different challenges that are likely and the possible solutions.

1. Timely execution of the projects – Pancheshwar multipurpose project was halted for long only because of lethargic approach of both governments. Strong political commitment is needed. Talks have been resumed to re-initiate the process to build Pancheshwar project. Many major hydro-power projects in Nepal are delayed because of political differences and opposition in the name of national interest.

2. Political stability is a must for investment in infrastructure. Nepal has been politically unstable which led to policy paralysis and hostile environment for investment. Nepal needs to address the ongoing political conflicts.

3. Need to analyse the possible impact if UCPN (Maoist) forms a government in near future as they are opposing the PTA and PDA.

4. Independent regulatory body and transmission and distribution networks of electricity are required for effective cross border power trade. An independent power grid organization is also needed to turn the surplus power from independent power producers.

5. Need adequate cross border transmission infrastructure to attract private companies.

6. To avoid the unnecessary delay and hassle free administration processes India and Nepal should facilitate single window clearance for hydropower investors.

7. Manage local populations apprehensions that are likely to be created due to environmental problems associated with big multipurpose hydropower projects. Sediment load is one of the major environmental challenges for establishment of hydropower projects. This  raises the cost of project also. Assessment of landslide risk at the site and access routes are essential for successful operation of the projects.

Categories
Programs & Policies

Clean India mission – challenges

” Every one must be his own scavenger – MK Gandhi “

Swacch Bharat mission has been launched, but several hurdles are there on the path.

Waste Generation and Disposal

  • Lack of capacity to process the collected waste and Inadequate landfills—the waste gets transported from point A to B, where it is either dumped indefinitely, or burned periodically. Burning introduces toxins into the air. The poor end up living near such dumping grounds. Burning of solid waste/leaves is banned under the Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000, the document which lays down guidelines for waste management in this country. But the ban is rarely enforced by any municipality.
  • Increasing amount of garbage generation – Nearly one third of the garbage is not collected at all – it is left to rot away in streets. Since half of Indian garbage is typically organic matter which is compostable, the dumped garbage rots blow around and finally decompose and mix with the soil. The remaining untreatable part – mainly plastics – can be seen flying around.
  •  Sewage or waste water disposal – Currently less than a third of urban India has access to sewerage systems. Industries release their wastes and effluents in the nearby water bodies.
  • Open drains – biggest source of filth and the primary source of various diseases.
  • We might unfortunately end up exporting our waste to countries that are poorer than ours, as the developed nations are doing.

Problem of Local bodies

  •  No priority for sanitation – entry in state list.
  • Municipalities and PRIs don’t have adequate financial resources. A common complaint across the board is of shortage of funds for the requisite infrastructure.
  • Previously, there was an “octroi,” a local tax, which used to be collected by local government and used for sanitation purposes.
  • No professional expertise in the Municipal Corporation to deal with issue of waste disposal.
  • Corruption – no supervision when a civil work contract is given by the Municipal Corporation. It is the responsibility of the contractor to remove all the construction material or waste, but it is pushed to the side of the road to save money that would be otherwise spent on its transportation and disposal.

Behavioral and Social Issues

  • Inculcating a sense of hygiene among the masses is a challenge. Think before you throw your garbage or pee on the road.
  •  State funding to build toilets addresses one issue – maintenance is a big problem. Reluctance of some people to clean their own toilets, a job that historically became a caste based occupation – manual scavenging. A social journey has to be traversed before a person can take pride in keeping his own toilet clean. Changed social attitudes have to walk in tandem with public spending.
  • Caste apartheid that still exists in our country against Safai karamcharis and manual scavengers.These manual scavengers form the most oppressed and suppressed class fighting to survive in the Indian society.
  • Tackling problems of Safai Karamchairs – long pending demand of pension, regularization of work, promotion.
  • Population pressure is a big issue. Building systems that can cover all households given entrenched sanitation habits and decayed urban management is not easy.
  • Development process itself would generate much more waste as incomes rise and industry expands.

 

 

Categories
Polity & Governance

Supreme Court v/s Tribunals Issue – Demystified

Supreme Court struck down the National Tax Tribunal Act, on the grounds that it encroached upon the power of the judiciary and the principle of separation of powers. Here is the gist of the entire matter , all that is required for the exam.

What are Tribunals?

  • Tribunal is a body of administrative character powered with judicial and quasi judicial powers to adjudicate on question of law or fact that affects rights of citizens.
  • Sometimes they are of constitutional origin  U/A 323 A, 323 B – 42nd amendment.
  • Exempted from review by higher courts. SC only has limited rights U/A 136 (special leave petition).
  • Important tribunals are – Income tax Appellate Tribunal under Income tax act, 1961 , National Green Tribunal etc.

Why tribunals ?

  • delay in adjudication due to huge arrears of cases, thus, reduce pendency of cases .
  • need for specialized knowledge and expertise in certain domains.
  • need for uniformity in interpretation of tax laws as huge tax recovery held up in litigation.

What is the problem?

  • Non judicial appointment of CAs, CS to tribunals which are judicial posts are viewed as excessive control by the executive .
  • Increasing tribunalisiation is said to be an encroachment on judicial independence, contrary to constitutional scheme of separation of powers. This affects the basic structure.
  • SC is of the view that only higher judiciary can decide questions involving substantial law and not tribunals.
  • Speedy disposal of appeals could be hindered post the National Tax Tribunal ruling.

What could be the solution ?

  • Legislature has the power to create tribunals and vest it with adjudicatory powers but at the same time, it has to maintain identical conditions of service and independence of members of the tribunals as applicable to high court judges in deciding the disputes.
  • Technical experts can be included in advisory capacity.
  • Review policy of establishing tribunals and create balance between powers of higher judiciary and special tribunals dealing with important questions of law.

 

 

Categories
Polity & Governance

Leader of Opposition issue , need for LoP

The Issue: What happens when the single largest Party is Opposition does not secure even 10% of the Seats. Current Constitutional Provision requires that for having the Leader of Opposition, the single largest party in opposition should have at least 10% seats in the Lok Sabha. The Leader of such a party acts as the Leader of Opposition.

Rahul baba and team did not get the requisite number and made the leader of opposition ( LoP ) issue important for UPSC. In news again, because, in spite of not having LoP recognition , Kharge has been inducted in CIC selection panel.

Who is the LoP?

  • Each house has a LoP – leader of the largest party that has not less than one-tenth of the total strength of the house. In Lok sabha, total strength = 545 , one tenth = 55.
  • Largest party in opposition and its leader is recognized by the Speaker / Chairman as a matter of convention established by 1st lok sabha speaker GV Mavlankar. Main opposition’s strength must be 10 % of the total strength . The convention was later incorporated in Direction 121c , Directions by the Speaker.
  • LoP accorded statutory status and defined under Salary and allowances of Leaders of Opposition in Parliament Act, 1977.

Why is LoP required – significance ?

  • to provide constructive criticism on the policies of the government.
  • Helps to represent a view contrary from that of government.
  • LoP is required on the panels that recommend key appointments like Lokpal, CVC , CIC, NJAC.

Current Controversy?

  • Congress being the second largest party has 44 seats. It falls short of the 10% norm. After 10 years of raita, it does not get even LoP.
  • Congress has been demanding the post of LoP but the Speaker rejected their proposal citing conventions and norms. However, her decision was criticized as there is no law that mandates the 10% eligibility.

Comparison with other countries ?

  • Britain- the opposition is formally designated Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. They also form the Shadow Cabinet to balance the ruling cabinet and prepare its members for future  ministerial offices.
  • United States – The President is held accountable by minority parties in Congress.

Analysis

A flourishing democracy should accommodate the fundamental right to dissent. Inclusion of LoP provides objectivity and a contrarian perspective to decisions and appointments made by the government.

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
Economy Programs & Policies

Global Gender Gap Index 2014

Reports and Indices are always important for the exam. UPSC asks them in both prelims and mains. It also serves as good fodder for Essay.

Global Gender Gap  Report is published by World Economic Forum. First Report published in 2006.

Global Gender Gap Index – What is it for ?

Measures the relative gender based gaps in four areas :-

  • economic participation and opportunity (including salaries)
  • education attainment
  • political empowerment
  • health and survival

India and the Index ?

  • Index places India at 114 among 142 countries.
  • Ranking slipped from 101 in 2013 to 114 in 2014.
  • Lowest rank among BRICS.
  • Only Bhutan and Pakistan rank below India among SAARC nations.

What does the report say about India?

  • participation of women labour force is shrinking – fall could be due to greater enrollment of girls in educational institutions.
  • poor performance in economic participation and opportunity , education attainment and health.
  • highest difference between women and men on the average minutes spent per day on unpaid work.
  • High rank ( 15th ) in Index of Political Empowerment.

Other major highlights of the report ?

  • Iceland ranked 1st in the index – Nordic nations remain most gender equal societies.
  • No country has closed its overall gender gap.
  • We will have to wait for 81 years for gender parity at workplace.

A nation’s competitiveness in the long term depends significantly on how it educates and utilizes the skills of women. More substantive attention to women’s issues  would go a long way in bridging this gap.

Categories
Programs & Policies Science & technology

Clinical Trials – all that you need to know, explained pointwise

What are Clinical Trials?

Clinical trials are research studies that explore whether a medical strategy, treatment, or device is safe and effective for humans. Before a drug  is launched in market, it has to be tested for its safety and efficacy. This is done in stages, with a large pool of patients after which the data from the trials is assessed.

Who is the regulator?

Central drug Standard Control Organisation – CDSCO. Regulates under Drugs and cosmetics Act.

Why is India a preferred destination for trials?

  • availability of large genetic pool with a wide spectrum of diseases
  • educated work force
  •  lower operational costs

What are the major issues ?

  • Regulatory failures
  • Unethical clinical trials
  • Spurious drugs
  • Collusion between drug companies and doctors

What has been done so far?

  • Registration of trials mandatory in the Clinical trials Registry.
  • Audio visual recording of informed consent in trials
  • CDSCO provided with power to inspect and suspend.
  • Drug Advisory Committees formed
  •  Ranjit Roy Choudhury Expert Committee constituted by the Union Health Ministry to formulate policy and guidelines for clinical trials recommends:-

1.  Clinical trials can only be carried out at centers which have been accredited for such purpose.

2. Ethics committee of the Institute must also be accredited.

  • SC principles to approve trials:

1.  Assessment of risk v/s benefit to patients

2.  Need for innovation along with existing therapeutic option

3.  Unmet medical needs in the country.

 

What should be the Ethical considerations?

  • Informed consent and Voluntary Agreement of the participant
  • Maintain privacy of the participant
  • Accountability and transparency while conducting trials
  • Research and trial details should be in public domain.

What is the way forward?

  • Compulsory registration of all clinical trials before any dosing starts. This will help in stopping illegal trials.
  • Suspending trials is not the solution as it will deprive people from accessing new drugs. Ethical imperative is that people who are injured directly because of participating in trials should be compensated and medically managed.
  • Safety of trial subjects is of paramount importance. Implementation of Ranjit Roy Committee recommendations may not be the ultimate solution to the problems plaguing the Clinical Trial Industry, but it would be a beginning for cleansing the Industry of unethical practices which puts the lives of our patient population at risk.

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
Art & Culture

Sankirtana – snippets for mains

UPSC’s penchant for culture is well known. Although this is not a very recent development , it might have caught the examiner’s eye as a potential 2/5 marker.

 

Why in news?

 UNESCO has inscribed Sankirtana of Manipur on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, for the year 2013. 

What is it? 

1. Ritual singing, dancing, drumming of Manipur, performed to mark   religious occasions and various stages in the lives of Vaishnava community of Manipur.

2. It is practiced at the centre of a temple, where performers narrate the lives and deeds of Lord Krishna through songs and dance.

3. Social function of the ritual — brings people together, acts as a cohesive force amongst the Vaishnava community of Manipur.

4. Society safeguards the traditional knowledge and skills and ensures its transmission across generations.

 # Inscription of Sankirtana on the Representative List would contribute to the visibility of intangible cultural heritage. It would also help to encourage intercultural dialogue and promote respect for cultural diversity.

# Sangeet Natak Akademi documents and safeguards it.

Spare a few moments for this vibrant art form – Link