7.1. DRAFT PUBLIC HEALTH BILL 2017
Why in news?
The draft Public Health (Prevention, Control and Management of Epidemics, Bio-Terrorism and Disasters) Bill, 2017 has been released by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
Objectives: The Bill aims to provide for the prevention, control and management of:
public health consequences of disasters, and
Acts of bio terrorism or threats.
Need for the bill
The draft Bill seeks to repeal the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897.
Over the years, the Act has accumulated quite a number of flaws which can be attributed to the changing priorities in public health emergency management. For instance,
o Epidemic Act 1897 is silent on the definition of dangerous epidemic disease.
o Moreover, it being a century old act, the territorial boundaries of the act needs a relook.
Key Features of the draft bill
The draft Bill defines ‘public health emergency’ as any sudden state of danger to public health including:
o extension or spread of any infectious or contagious disease or pests affecting humans, animals or plant,
o occurrence of or threat of dangerous epidemic disease, and
o Disaster or bio-terrorism or potential public health emergency requiring immediate action for its prevention, control and management.
The proposed bill lists 33 epidemic-prone diseases which include Anthrax, bird flu, dengue, HIV/AIDS, yellow fever, rabies, plague, measles, kala-azar, among others.
The draft also lists potential bioterrorism agents including bacteria of typhoid fever, cholera, plague among others, and viruses including ebola, dengue, Japanese Encephalitis and others.
The bill also outlines the powers of central, state and local authorities to take appropriate actions to tackle public health emergencies like epidemics and bioterrorism.
7.2. MAHILA SHAKTI KENDRA
Why in news?
Budget 2017-18 speech mentioned that Mahila Shakti Kendra will be set-up at village level in 14 lakh ICDS Anganwadi Centres.
About Mahila Shakti Kendra
It will provide one stop convergent support services for empowering rural women with opportunities for skill development, employment, digital literacy, health and nutrition.
It will increase access of essential services for women.
Allocation insufficient: If Rs 500 crore is allocated to 14 lakh anganwadis, it amounts to just Rs 3,571 for setting up each women's empowerment centre.
Further undermine ICDS: Government has been slashing funds towards ICDS from last 2 years which has affected the regular functioning of anganwadis. Thus, adding one more scheme will further undermine ICDS
Overburdened workers: Using anganwadi to implement one more scheme will make anganwadi worker overburdened. That too with their earnings often being even less than minimum wage.
Difficult to provide all support services: Envisaged as centres where women can get support for everything ranging from employment and skill development to health and digital literacy, it is beyond capacity of an anganwadi worker. It could have been done better under mahila samkhya programme (which has been stopped last year).
7.3. CORONARY STENT PRICE CAPPED
Why in news?
National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) capped coronary stents prices up to 40 per cent lower than their existing market rates.
It is valid for all stents sold within India – whether domestic or imported.
What is a Stent?
It is a tube-shaped device which is inserted into a blocked blood vessel.
It helps clear the blockage in arteries, sometimes through physical means (Bare Metal stents) and often through the drugs it gives out at a slow rate (Drug eluting stents).
Thinner the stent, more sophisticated and expensive it is supposed to be.
In 2016, Coronary stents were included in the National List of Essential Medicines (2015).
Later the Department of Pharmaceuticals incorporated coronary stents in Schedule I of the Drug Prices Control Order, 2013 making it a ‘scheduled formulation’.
National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM)
As per the WHO, Essential Medicines are those that satisfy the priority health care needs of the population.
NLEM 2015 contains 376 medicines.
Criteria for inclusion into this list includes public health emergency, cost effective medicine etc.
Core Committee formed by the Ministry of Health reviews and revises the medicines in the NLEM. .
Need of price cap
Presently nearly two-thirds of the high out-of-pocket expenditure on health incurred by Indians went towards drugs.
Lancent research has shown a rise in irrational use of medical technologies, including cardiac stents and
Indian stent market is about $500 million. It is expected to grow further due to rise in incidence of hypertension and diabetes.
Coronary artery disease is becoming a major health problem in India. Therefore it has become the first medical device to be brought under price control.
National Pharmaceutical Pricing Policy 2012
The criteria to fix the price ceiling of any commodity is calculated as the simple average of all brands of that particular product that have a market share of at least 1 per cent.
Significance of the order
This order would reduce the ‘unethical markups’ in the prices of the medical devices like stents making healthcare more affordable.
NPPA report had found out that there was a ‘vulgar profiteering’ by raising the medical device prices in an irrational manner. This order would curb this practice.
Quality levels of the stent may drop if the monitoring is not adequate.
National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority
It is an independent body under Department of Pharmaceuticals under Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers.
Its functions are:
oTo fix/ revise the controlled bulk drugs prices and formulations.
oTo enforce prices and availability of the medicines under the Drugs (Prices Control) Order, 1995/2013.
oTo recover amounts overcharged by manufacturers for the controlled drugs from the consumers.
oTo monitor the prices of decontrolled drugs in order to keep them at reasonable levels.
There is a need of two pronged strategy to make medicines and medical devices affordable:
o Government should monitor expenditures jointly in partnership with the community,
o Government should also use regulation where needed, and raise public spending on health.
o Promote generic medicines.
Also district hospitals should expand the coverage of cardiac treatments pan India so that the order can benefit maximum population.
7.4. REGULATING ONLINE SALE OF MEDICINES
Why in News?
A sub-committee constituted by Drugs Consultative Committee to examine online drugs sale has recently submitted its report.
Rise of e-commerce has boosted the sale of online drug.
Drugs Consultative Committee
It is a statutory body under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act 1940 constituted by the Central government.
It is advises central, state governments on uniformity of this act throughout India.
It has representatives from central and state governments.
It meets when required by the central government.
It has the power to regulate its own procedure.
Drugs and Cosmetics Act 1940 lacks any guidelines for e-commerce players in the pharmaceutical industry. However, ‘scheduled’ drugs should be sold only by licensed pharmacies against a doctor’s prescription.
Easy access to online medicines may promote antimicrobial resistance.
Online pharmacies cannot be quality assured presently leading to drugs of dubious quality in the market.
Recommendations of the sub-committee
Create a National Portal as a nodal platform to transact and monitor online drug sale.
Evolve a mechanism to register e-pharmacies.
There needs to be geographical restriction in the operation of e-pharmacies.
Retail drug sale licenses can also be registered on National Portal to carry online drug sale.
Certain drugs prone to misuse like Narcotics and Psychotropic drugs, tranquilizers etc. should be excluded from online sale.
Offline and Online drugs sale will continue to be regulated with Drugs and Cosmetics rules 1945.
Limitations of online pharmacy
Unregulated selling of prescription drugs online promotes self-medication.
Government revenue is also hit as e-commerce players escape the taxes equivalent to retail pharmacies.
Government has been promoting accessible and affordable generic medicine to prevent self-medication through online mode. It should also frame guidelines regarding the online sale of medicines.
It should come up with an independent health regulator that has online sales also in its purview. It should also have punitive powers for those breaking the law.
7.5. ENSURING QUALITY OF DRUGS IN GOVERNMENT SUPPLY CHAIN
Why in News?
According to a drug survey report published by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, more than 10 percent drugs in the government supply chain are not of standard quality (NSQ).
More on the Survey
Survey of the ‘Extent of Problems of Spurious and Not of Standard Quality Drugs’ was conducted by National Institute of Biologicals (NIB), Noida.
The design of the survey included 224 drug molecules belonging to 15 different therapeutic categories of National List of Essential Medicines (2011).
More than 47,000 drug samples were drawn from 36 states and UTs from retail outlets, government sources, airports and seaports.
The survey found a total of 3.16% NSQ drugs while 0.0245% was found to be spurious in nature.
The NSQ drugs were found to be higher percentage in drugs drawn from government sources than in retail outlets.
Stringent guidelines need to be put in place by the government procurement agencies for qualifying manufacturers.
Each consignment must be checked from (National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories) accredited laboratories.
Government warehouses, medical store depots and pharmacies should have adequate storage facilities such as maintenance of required temperature, humidity, air conditioned spaces and refrigerators.
Strict laws must be put in place to make manufacturers adhere to standard quality.
7.6. NORMS FOR BRAIN DEATH
Why in News?
The National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organization (NOTTO) have begun to frame uniform guidelines on brain death certification all over the country.
National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organization
Brain death and organ donation
Need of the norms
Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues Act (THOTA), 1994 lays out rules for brain death certification but they are essentially clinical parameters.
New guidelines would solve medico-legal problems.
Lack of understanding of brain death is one factor responsible for low organ donations in
India. SOPs would help remove this.
Significance of the norms
Standard Operating Protocol (SOP) for brain death certification will help remove grey areas and also empower intensive care personnel.
In India, deceased organ donation in private hospitals lags behind the government sector. If SOPs are evolved this gap may be filled.
States like Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Chandigarh and Maharashtra have had a common protocol in private and government hospitals. New SOP would create overlap and confusion.
India still does not follow the ‘Presumed Consent Method’ where if not explicitly stated, the organs are harvested without consent of kin. This can be a solution to solving the problem of low organ donation in India.
Apart from this, there is a need of greater awareness mechanisms to draw in more voluntary organ donors.
7.7. UGC’S FUNDING POWERS
Why in news?
The Centre has decided to divest the higher education watchdog of its financial powers and delegate them to the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry.
This is a step towards educational reforms where the University Grants Commission (UGC) will not have any financial powers and will eventually function only as a certification body.
For this purpose, the HRD Ministry last week signed a deal with Canara Bank to set up a Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) that would eventually take over UGC’s financial powers.
The HEFA will start funding higher educational institutions, including IITs and IIMs, by the start of the next academic session.
The UGC’s mishandling of issues related to Deemed Universities and its failure to revamp the higher education curriculum for years.
Also, a special committee set up by the Centre to examine various issues between the UGC and the HRD Ministry has recommended for removing financial powers of the UGC.
Comprehensive reforms should be taken to improve outcome in education sector in India based on recommendations of T S R Subramanian committee report and other such recommendations.
7.8. KADIYAM SRIHARI COMMITTEE
Why in news?
Recently sub-committee of Central Board of Advisory Education (CABE) under the chairmanship of Kadiyan Srihari has been constituted by Union Human Resource Development Ministry to look into the matter of girls’ education.
Central Board of Advisory Education
It is highest advisory body to advise the Central and State Governments in the field of education.
It is headed by Union HRD minister and consists of nominated members representing various interests in addition to elected members from Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha
Major functions of CABE are to review the progress of education from time to time, to assess the extent and manner in which education policy has been implemented by central and state governments and other concerned agencies and to give appropriate advice in the matter.
7.9. ASHOK KUMAR ROOPANWAL COMMITTEE REPORT
Why in News?
The one-man commission constituted by the HRD ministry was set up to look into the Rohith Vemula’s death at the Hyderabad Central University and suggest measures to prevent such.
Recommendations of the report
Counselling Centers with professionally counselors should be set up.
The university should evolve an appellate mechanism for students to appeal of excesses in the university.
Monitoring Committee needs to be constituted to provide guidance on the matters related to the subjects studied by the students. Immediately report to Vice Chancellor on serious issues.
Equal opportunity cell headed by the Anti-
discrimination Officer as per the UGC (Promotion of Equity in Higher Educational Institutions) Regulations 2012 should be made functional.
Grievance Redressal Committee headed by the Ombudsman as per the UGC (Grievance Redressal) Regulations 2012 should be made effective and should dispense grievances weekly.
A strong induction programme, a local guardian system for outstation students and suitable student volunteers to act as mentors and help freshers are needed for better acclimatization.
Remedial teaching for academically weak students.
Strict compliance of Hostel Admission Rules and Regulations in allotting hostel accommodation and supervision.
7.10. TEJASWINI PROJECT
Why in news?
Recently World Bank has signed an agreement with India to provide $63 million loan for Project Tejaswini to empower adolescent girls and young women in state of Jharkhand.
More about Tejaswini Project
It aims to empower adolescent girls and young women (between 14-24 years) with basic life skills and further provide opportunity to complete their secondary education and acquire market driven skills. This program was approved by World Bank in 2016.
Project will be implemented in 17 districts of Jharkhand and estimated 6.8 lakh adolescent girls and young women are expected to benefit from this programme.
This is the first World Bank project in India that is solely focused on the welfare of adolescent girls and young women.
7.11. NATIONAL CHILD LABOUR PROJECT (NCLP)
Why in news?
Kailash Satyarthi expressed disappointment over an increment of just 8% for the National Child Labour Project in the Budget.
National Child Labour Project (NCLP)
A project of Ministry of Labour, its basic objective is to suitably rehabilitate the children withdrawn from employment thereby reducing the incidence of child labour in areas of known concentration of child labour.
The NCLP Scheme seeks:
To eliminate all forms of child labour through
Identification and withdrawal of all children in the Project Area from child labour,
Preparing children withdrawn from work for mainstream education along with vocational training
Ensuring convergence of services provided by different government departments/agencies for the benefit of child and their family
To contribute to the withdrawal of all adolescent workers from Hazardous Occupations and their Skilling and integration in appropriate occupations through facilitating vocational training opportunities through existing scheme of skill developments
Raising awareness amongst stakeholders and target communities, and orientation of NCLP and other functionaries on the issues of ‘Child Labour’ and ‘employment of adolescent workers in hazardous occupations/processes’
Creation of a Child Labour Monitoring, Tracking and Reporting System.
All child workers below the age of 14 years in the identified target area.
Adolescent workers below the age of 18 years in the target area engaged in hazardous occupations.
Families of Child workers in the identified target area.
To create an enabling environment in the target area, where children are motivated and empowered through various measures to enroll in schools and refrain from working
Households will be provided with alternatives to improve their income levels.
It will be implemented in close coordination with State, District administration and civil society.
Elimination of Child Labour is joint responsibility of the Ministry of Labour and Employment and the State Governments.
Contribute to the identification and eradication of all forms of child labour.
Contribute to the identification and withdrawal of adolescents from hazardous occupations and processes in the target area.
Successful mainstreaming into regular schools of all children who have been withdrawn from child labour and rehabilitated through the NCLPS.
Adolescents withdrawn from hazardous occupations to have benefited from skills training wherever required and linked to legally permissible occupations.
Better informed communities, specific target groups and the public at large as a result of the Social Mobilization Programme and Awareness about the ill effects of child labour.
Enhanced capacities to address the issue of child labour through training of NCLP staff and other functionaries.
7.12. HAMARI DHAROHAR SCHEME
Why in News?
The first sitting of the Committee on Cultural Harmony Conclave under the “Hamari Dharohar” scheme took place recently.
This Committee has been formulated to organise events that will help spread awareness about minority culture and heritage in India.
It is a central sector scheme launched in 2014 by the Ministry of Minority Affairs in order to preserve the rich heritage of minority communities under the overall concept of Indian culture.
Implementation of the scheme is expected to improve general awareness about the culture and heritage of the minority communities and also strengthen the social fabric of the country.
Exhibitions, preservation of literature/documents, promotion of calligraphy and R&D are some of the activities to be carried out.
The six minority communities notified under the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992 are to be covered. They are: Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis and Jains.
Two other schemes formulated for the benefit of minorities are: Padho Pradesh and Nayi Roshni.
7.13. BRAILLE ATLAS
Ministry of Science and Technology has recently launched first-of-its-kind Braille Atlas to let visually impaired people especially students study maps.
The atlas has been developed both in Hindi and English by the National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organisation by using indigenously developed silk-screen painting technology.
Atlas consists of 20 maps on different themes of physical, socio-economic and cultural aspects like river system, crops pattern, natural vegetation, crops, roads and railways, etc.
It consists of raised maps embossed with simple lines and point symbols to facilitate its users to find out any location and area coverage, easily distinguishable in terms of shapes and textures.
Each Map has a legend and reference in Braille script to help in navigating the map.
In India first Braille map was made in 1997.
National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organisation (NATMO), Kolkata
It was founded in 1954 as National Atlas Organisation to compile national atlas of India.
It is a premier agency under the Ministry of Science and Technology and is primarily engaged in preparing different thematic maps and atlases and other documents on national, state, district, block level and many other monograms.
Why in News?
The HRD Ministry has decided to take part in PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) again from 2021.
What is PISA?
It is a global evaluation system launched by OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation Development) in 2000.
It tests the learning levels of teenage students (15 year olds) in reading, mathematics and science.
The test is carried out every three years.
India boycotted the test after 2009 due it’s to poor performance.
PISA’s data can be used to improve India’s school system and bring them at par with the global standards.