1. STEPPING OUT OF THE SHADOW OF INDIA’S MALNUTRITION-
GS 2- Issues relating to poverty and hunger
(i) There have been numerous instances during the prayer session in schools where we often observe students feeling sick and falling down out of dizziness. Most of the times they do not want to take mid-day meals and when asked, they complain of stomach ache and this is a result of the children skipping breakfast.
(ii) These words were echoed during a telephonic survey which we conducted in the Burdwan district of West Bengal in September 2020, with schoolteachers on the health conditions of students.
(iii) In the report, a schoolteacher had highlighted how girl students, who took admission in Standard five were relatively shorter in height than the previous year’s batch of students. This, the teacher inferred, was largely integrated with malnutrition that is burgeoning not only in the State but also in rest of the country.
(iv) If this is found to be the general trend across India, such anecdotal evidence can have larger consequences that can very well lead to different manifestations of malnutrition.
What is Malnutrition?
(i) Malnutrition refers to deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in a person’s intake of energy and/or nutrients.
(ii) Malnutrition covers 2 different categories of conditions that are given below
(iii) Undernutrition – This category covers stunting (low height for age), wasting (low weight for height), underweight (low weight for age) and micronutrient deficiencies (lack of important minerals)
(iv) Others – This category consists of overweight, obesity, diet-related non-communicable diseases (such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer)
Malnutrition – Negative Impacts
(i) Affects the productivity of the population
(ii) Affects the country’s mortality rates
(iii) Affects the survival rate of children
(iv) Affects the learning capability of children, making them unproductive in their later life.
Malnutrition – Causes
Many families cannot afford or have access to
(i) Fresh fruits
The reason behind the rapid rise in obesity in adults and children is the cheaply available foods and drinks high in fat, sugar, and salt. Overweight problem is prevalent in poor as well as rich countries.
Global Reports, Measures
(i) Two recent reports — the annual report on “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020” by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations and the 2020 Hunger report, “Better Nutrition, Better Tomorrow” by the Bread for the World Institute – document staggering facts about Indian food insecurity and malnutrition.
(ii) Using two globally recognised indicators, namely, the Prevalence of Undernourishment (PoU) and the Prevalence of Moderate or Severe Food Insecurity (PMSFI), these two reports indicate India to be one of the most food-insecure countries, with the highest rates of stunting and wasting among other South Asian countries.
(iii) The PoU measures the percentage of people who are consuming insufficient calories than their required minimum dietary energy requirement, while the PMSFI identifies the percentage of people who live in households that are severely or moderately food insecure.
(iv) The reduction in poverty has been substantial going by official estimates available till 2011-12.
(v) However, malnutrition has not declined as much as the decline has occurred in terms of poverty.
(vi) On the contrary, the reduction is found to be much lower than in neighbouring China, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh.
(vii) Except China, these are countries which had some what similar levels of PoU in and around the year 2000. In terms of percentages, the PoU has declined 24.7% between 2001 and 2018 for India; other data are China (76.4%), Nepal (74%), Pakistan (42%), Afghanistan (37.4%) and Bangladesh (18.9%).
(viii) It must be noted that the decline in China is way higher than that of India, even though it had started with lower levels of PoU in 2000.
(ix) In contrast, Afghanistan (47.8%) that started with a higher base than India (18.6%) had experienced higher rates of decline. Of note is the fact that, economically, while Afghanistan is relatively much poorer and has gone through several prolonged conflicts in last two decades, it has been more successful in reducing malnutrition than India.
(x) Further, Pakistan and Nepal which had almost similar (slightly higher to be precise) levels of PoU in the initial years, have also successfully reduced malnourishment at a rate that is much faster than India.
(xi) Therefore, irrespective of the base level of PoU, most of these countries have done better than India on this dimension.
Concerns Regarding Insecurity
(i) Despite the National Food Security Act – 2013 ensuring every citizen “access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices”, two crucial elements that still got left out are the non-inclusion of nutritious food items such as pulses and exclusion of potential beneficiaries.
(ii) Because of this, there is little to disagree that the current COVID-19 pandemic would make the situation worse in general, more so for vulnerable groups.
(iii) In fact the recently initiated “Hunger Watch” by the Right to Food Campaign presents a very grim situation, with close to one out of every three respondents reporting low food consumption and massive compromise on food quality.
(iv) Our estimates indicate that between 2014-16, about 29.1% of the total population was food insecure, which rose up to 32.9% in 2017-19.
(v) In terms of absolute number, about 375 million of the total population was moderately or severely food insecure in 2014, which went to about 450 million in 2019.
(vi) Though States have temporarily expanded their coverage in the wake of the crisis, the problem of malnutrition is likely to deepen in the coming years with rising unemployment and the deep economic slump.
(vii) Hence, a major shift in policy has to encompass the immediate universalisation of the Public Distribution System which should definitely not be temporary in nature, along with the distribution of quality food items and innovative interventions such as the setting up of community kitchens among other things.
Schemes Launched For Fighting Malnutrition
(i) Integrated Child Development Scheme
(ii) National Nutrition Policy
(iii) National Nutrition Policy
(iv) National Health Mission
(v) Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojna
(vi) National Nutrition Mission
Challenges Related To National Nutrition Mission
(i) Lack of coordination between various ministries affects the programme’s implementation.
(ii) The scheme also suffers from under-utilisation of allocated funds.
(iii) Till now, State and Union Territory governments have only used 16% of the funds allocated to them.
(iv) Lack of real-time data monitoring, sustainability and accountability also impact the National Nutrition Mission (NNM).
(v) Anganwadis are key to the distribution of services to mothers and children. But many States, including Bihar and Odisha, which have large vulnerable populations, are struggling to set up functioning anganwadis, and recruit staff.
(vi) The Mission does not have differential approach to the issue of malnutrition, more focus is needed on the areas where malnutrition levels are comparatively high.
(vii) For example- the highest levels of stunted and underweight children are found in Jharkhand, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra.
This year’s Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the United Nations World Food Programme, which should bring some of the focus back on these pressing issues of undernourishment and hunger in India.
The need of the hour remains the right utilisation and expansion of existing programmes to ensure that we arrest at least some part of this burgeoning malnutrition in the country.
2. CHINA FINDS INDIA’S STANCE OFFENSIVE
GS 3- Security challenges, IR
(i) India decided to block another 43 Chinese mobile applications.
(ii) Since June, following escalation of tensions with China at the border, India has blocked over 250 Chinese mobile apps, a bunch at a time, on the grounds that they have been engaging in activities “which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order”.
(i) The latest instance of app blocking has come at a time when the two sides, while still talking, are struggling to come up with an agreement for disengagement along the Line of Actual Control.
(ii) With the immensely popular TikTok and PUBG already blocked, this time it was the turn of the likes of Alipay Cashier, Snack Video, Chinese Social, Adore App, and Alibaba Workbench to meet the same fate.
Line Of Actual Control
(i) The LAC or Line of Actual Control separates Indian controlled territory from China’s territory. It lies east of the convergence of the Galwan and Shyok rivers in the valley.
(ii) LAC is divided into three regions: the western part in Ladakh, the middle part in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, and the eastern region that runs across Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim.
Why The Ban?
(i) The ban is a result China’s repeated attempts at shifting its boundary at the LAC by trying to establish authority in India’s territory.
(ii) China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been trying to shift its boundary with India in Ladakh.
(iii) The Chinese apps have emerged as threats to India’s security and public order and therefore the Indian government has issued the bans under the Section 69A of IT Act.
(iv) A German cybersecurity firm reported that medical details of millions of Indian patients were leaked and available on the internet.
S.P. Section 69A of IT Act:
Section 69A of the IT Act empowers the Central Government to issue directions for blocking public access to certain websites and digital applications interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence.
China Asks India To Retreat
(i) China has charged India with using national security as an excuse to target Chinese apps.
(ii) Zhao Lijian, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, has asked India to “correct its discriminatory approach and avoid causing further damage to bilateral cooperation”.
(iii) China crying discrimination is ironical — its version of the Internet is tightly controlled and heavily censored, and has been so for years.
Merits Of The Ban
(i) In the short run, it may be useful for India to use its vast market for Internet services as a leverage in its attempts to keep China in check at the border.
(ii) Growth of Indian alternatives: Indian apps will find the much-needed space to grow now, and initial reports indicate as much.
(iii) Breaking the barrier of Passive Diplomacy: Banning of these apps posits India as a non-reliable country on passive diplomacy with China.
(iv) Hinder Chinese Ambitions: The ban may hinder China’s growth as a possible digital leader.
(v) Digital technology: India’s ban on the Chinese apps recognizes the power and prospect of digital technology and data streams as the new global power.
Risks Associated With The Ban
(i) First, this approach runs the risk of triggering an unconventional battle between the two countries in the larger technology realm, if not in the larger business space. China, being an important player in the technology global supply chain, will be hard, if not impossible, to sideline.
(ii) Second, there is a risk that moves such as blocking apps would be perceived adversely by global investors and Internet companies.
(iii) The current economic dependency of India on China may result in India incurring revenue losses. India reliance on Chinese products like semiconductors and active pharmaceutical ingredients as well as the telecom sector (China is leading the ongoing 5G trials) may be hampered.
(iv) The ban may jeopardise the position of many Indian Companies such as Byju’s, Paytm, Zomato, who have Chinese shareholders.
(i) A comprehensive data Protection Law: Need of the hour – India needs to enact laws to prevent breach of data that may jeopardize India’s security. The digital revolution calls for such an action at the earliest. There is a dire need for the Central government to expedite the enactment of the Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill, 2019.
(ii) Competent alternatives: India needs to propel the development of Chinese app alternatives for its ever-growing digitally dependent users like China did when it banned Whatsapp and Facebook. So, Indian entrepreneurs can fill this dearth of advanced apps to fill the market gap.
(iii) Do away with outdated legislations: India’s digital network have been governed by obsolete regulations. The Information Technology Act, 2000 regulated business process outsourcing (BPO) but it fails to meet the demands of the ever-growing digital space that India is leading towards. Also the Copyright Act, 1957 was last amended in 2012 and no further changes have been made to fill the gaping hole of inadequacy of India’s digital growth.
(i) While it is true that there has been some push back against Chinese companies and technology globally, India must stick to a rules-based approach in regulating the Internet.
(ii) There is a need to implement the long-pending data protection law.
(iii) It is also important to engage with the ecosystem and provide clarity on these issues as India has to win the technology battle as well.
3. A VAIL HALF FULL
GS 2- Issues relating to the development and management of social sector relating to health, education, human resourses
Astra zaneca has partened with the oxford university vaccine group to test and market ChAdOx1 n cov 19 vaccine. This vaccine has some manufacturing defects.
About The Vaccine
ChAdOx1 ncov 19 vaccine is jointly developed by british Swedish company Astra Zenaca and university of oxford. This AZD 1222 vaccine based on chimpanzee adenovirus called ChAdOx cov 19, elicted antibody and T cell immune responses.
Phases Of Vaccine Trail
(i) Phase 0 – exploring if and how a new drug may work
(ii) Phase 1 – is the treatment safe
(iii) Phase 2- does the treatment work
(iv) Phase 3 is it better than what is already available
(v) Submission for approval
(vi) Phase 4- what else does we need to know
What Happened With The Vaccine
Some volunteers, who were supposed to gettwo doses of vaccine a month apart, got only half the required dose in one of the injections. Intriguingly, thedata suggested that the efficacy was 90% in the half/dosefull dose subgroup than the 62% in the regularfull dose group. The manufacturing snafu was disclosedby neither Oxford nor AstraZeneca, but came to light after the head of the United States vaccine programmedisclosed it on Twitter. The company maintains thatthis was not a ‘mistake’ as the manufacturing discrepancy was discovered, and disclosed to the United Kingdom regulators.
Vaccine Under Trail In India
In India, 5 vaccines are under trail in different phases. From them one is serum institute of india’s Codagenix CDX 005. Messenger RNA based covid vaccine BNT162b2 is another vaccine which is under trail in India.
What is Messenger Rna?
In molecular biology, messenger RNA is a single stranded molecule of RNA that corresponds to the genetic sequence of a gene and is read by a ribosome in the process of synthesizing a protein. During transcription, RNA polymerase makes a copy of a gene from that DNA to messenger RNA as needed.
What is Current Situation About Vaccine Trail?
(i) Vaccine makers and immunologists are aware of the‘prime boost’ technique where a limited dose of a vaccine is administered that prepares the immune system ad a later shot then improves the overall production of protective antibodies.
(ii) The results could even cause other vaccine manufacturers to test similar strategies. However, sober reflection leads to the ineluctable conclusion that this might not be one of the ‘lucky accidents’ of science lore.
(iii) The fraction of people who got the reduced doses were under 55, and so it is not known if the dosage works for people in the older, more vulnerable group who have already been included in the high priority groups of several countries including India.
(iv) Also, the number of volunteers who got the accidentaldose were statistically insignificant to draw the conclusion of increased protection.
(v) Though the overall assessment, that the vaccine works, and is safe, holds, theevents cloud trust in the process of scientific public communication.
Companies that are otherwise jostlingto prematurely announce vaccine results before scientific publication are opaque about full public disclosure. This when they have already been given a freepass in terms of accelerated regulatory processes, combining results from early trials and guaranteed government procurement.
Haste and opacity will only delay the availability of efficacious vaccine as India prepares for possibly the largest immunisation programme in history.