IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


2nd May, 2020


Plasma therapy is no silver bullet


- Indian Council of Medical Research is studying through open label, randomised controlled trial to evaluate it for both safety and efficacy. 

-Four patients have been enrolled in Ahmedabad and the study will be rolled out in 20 hospitals by the end of this week.

About Plasma Therapy:

-The therapy involves infusing patients suffering from COVID-19 with plasma from recovered patients.

-The antibodies of the recovered person may help that patient’s immune system fight the virus.

-The recovered patient's antibodies, once ingested into somebody under treatment, will begin targeting and fighting the novel coronavirus in the second patient.

Benefits of Plasma Therapy:

-Case studies in China and the US show that many severely ill patients showed promising signs of recovery after receiving this treatment.

-Based on rationality: Researchers in China reported that convalescent plasma therapy improved the outcomes of ten patients with severe coronavirus illness.

-Precedence in dealing with previous epidemic: It was used in the treatment of the Spanish flu as well as the 2009 H1N1 influenza, SARS and MERS viruses.

-Beneficial for frontline workers: The therapy can also used to immunise those at a high risk of contracting the virus -- such as health workers, families of patients and other high-risk contacts.


-Not yet proven: It is yet to be validated for efficacy and safety and cannot be deployed widely without caution. 

-Other side effects: Its risk ranges from mild reactions like fever, itching, to life-threatening allergic reactions and lung injury. 

-To recommend a therapy without studying it thoroughly violates medical ethics of “Do not harm”.

-Biasness in seeking positive outcomes: There is a publication bias and no of patients have been very minimal to establish efficacy and safety of the study.

-Expensive in nature:  It requires intensive resources, healthy COVID-19 survivors to donate, a blood bank with proper machinery and trained personnel to remove plasma, equipment to store it and testing facilities to make sure it has an adequate amount of antibodies.

-Involves high opportunity cost: It can take away the focus from other important therapeutic modalities like use of oxygen therapy, antivirals, and antibiotics for complicated hospital courses.

Way Forward:

-Focus on strengthening health systems at all levels, including referral systems, supply chain, logistics and inventory management. 

-Work on protecting our healthcare workers, improving prevention methods, promoting cough etiquettes, effective quarantining and accurate testing.


-Science should be driven by reason and evidence with hope as a catalyst but not by either fear or populism.

- Pushing one or the other therapy without evidence or caution can only set back our larger fight against COVID-19.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/plasma-therapy-is-no-silver-bullet/article31477500.ece


It’s about food, nutrition and livelihood security

Announced measures:

-Provision of additional rice or wheat, some pulses and oil free of cost

-Distribution of Rs. 1,000 cash for the purchase of other essential commodities through the Public Distribution System (PDS).

Different dimension of food security:

-Availability of food in the market: Green revolution has made availability of food in market as well as in government godowns.

Challenges to farmers in sustaining the food production:

-Availability of labor

-Availability of inputs like seeds and fertilizers at affordable cost.

-Marketing arrangements are not fully functional.

-Pricing for food produce is not remunerative and public procurement is not working at optimal level.

-Absence of demands along with lack of storage facility for perishable commodities can create food scarcity in future.

Accessibility of food:

-Availability of food through PDS should be widened to include millets, pulses and oil.

-Hidden hunger due to malnourishment should be mitigated.

-Closure of schools have affected mid day meals. Hence, a targeted focus must be to ensure availability of nutritional meal for those children to avoid nutritional crisis in future.

Challenges of Job Security:

-Food security and access to food is contingent upon job security.

-Job security can be ensured through value addition in primary sector like Rice biopark in Myanmar or formation of cooperatives like Amul. But, it will require investment in the technology.

-Horticulture needs to promoted through intervention of technological medium. It will ensure women empowerment.

-Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) should be strengthened. It is imperative to expand the definition of work in MGNREGA to cover skilled work related to farmers and their farming activities.

-Apart from farming, they can be engaged in a range of essential care tasks, including caring for children, the elderly and sick people through training and education.

Focus on Non-food sectors:

-Absorption of food in the body or its utilisation, is dependent importantly on sanitation, drinking water and other non-food factors, including public health services. We need to strengthen these services.


-Ensuring food availability, food access and food absorption will ensure food and nutritional security.

-Technology and public policy helped in mitigation of big famine in 1960, it can further be utilized to overcome the crisis of Covid19.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/its-about-food-nutrition-and-livelihood-security/article31485579.ece


Kashmir saffron gets GI tag

About Kashmir saffron:

-Kashmir saffron is a very precious and costly product.

- Iran is the largest producer of saffron and India is a close competitor.

- It rejuvenates health and is used in cosmetics and for medicinal purposes.

- It has been associated with traditional Kashmiri cuisine and represents the rich cultural heritage of the region.

-The unique characteristics of Kashmir saffron are

  • its longer and thicker stigmas,
  • natural deep-red colour,
  • high aroma,
  • bitter flavour,
  • chemical-free processing, and
  • high quantity of crocin (colouring strength), safranal (flavour) and picrocrocin (bitterness).

-The saffron available in Kashmir is of three types

  • ‘Lachha Saffron’, with stigmas just separated from the flowers and dried without further processing;
  • ‘Mongra Saffron’, in which stigmas are detached from the flower, dried in the sun and processed traditionally;
  • ‘Guchhi Saffron’, which is the same as Lachha, except the processing is different.

About Saffron:

-Saffron is harvested by hand from the Crocus sativus flower, commonly known as the “saffron crocus.”

-The term “saffron” applies to the flower's thread-like structures, or stigma.

-Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world — with 1 pound (450 grams) costing between 500 and 5,000 U.S. dollars.


About GI act:

- The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 (GI Act) is a sui generis act of the Parliament of India for protection of geographical indications in India.

-  It was enacted the Act to comply with the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights.

- The GI tag ensures that none other than those registered as authorised users (or at least those residing inside the geographic territory) are allowed to use the popular product name.

- Typically, GI conveys an assurance of quality and distinctiveness, which is essentially attributable to the fact of its origin in that defined geographical locality, region or country.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-life/kashmir-saffron-gets-gi-tag/article31485701.ece

Needed: a pandemic patent pool

Purpose of Patent rights:

-  Common public good: innovation should be made public in exchange for a limited monopoly.

-  Patents need to be disclosed to the public in order to enable further research.

Patents in time of Covid 19:

Challenges to vaccine:

 -  It will take at least 6-10 months for any vaccine/drug to be available. 

-  It will be impossible for it to be made instantly available across the world. 

-  Vaccine availability in each country will require approvals in each country to make it available.

-  Countries will have to gear up for instant manufacturing and marketing of the drug.

-  Continuous dialogue has to take place among innovators, manufacturers and supply chains to initiate instant manufacturing of vaccines.

Need for changes in patent regime:

-  For human life to become normal again, vaccines or medicines are the only permanent solutions. 

-  Innovation within the outbreak of Covid 19 is subject matter of patent applications around the world.

-  Frictions are cropping up among countries regarding sharing of the innovations: One country tried to obtain exclusive rights for the developed vaccine.

-  In times of Covid19, exclusivity granted by patent rights should not be detrimental for society.

Creating hindrances through exclusivity claims, in the wake of a pandemic, will result in dividing countries, corporations and international organisations. 

-  If patent owners create impediments on the strength of patent rights, the world will start despising patents and that is not a situation IP owners ought to be in.

Way Forward:

-  Under the TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) regime, there are several tools such as compulsory licensing that are available to ensure access to medicines.

-  One method by which aggregation and dissemination of innovative products can be ensured is by creating a patent pool.

-  Create a global pool of COVID-19-related innovations, or innovations related to rare pandemics, in respect of vaccines and medicines. 

-  All countries should have the right to implement these innovations without further permission from the patent-holders and without resorting to provisions such as compulsory licensing, state acquisition, etc. 

Working of Patent Pool:

-  Patent pools are usually effective in aggregating, administering and licensing patents related to specific areas of technology.

-  Such pools are usually managed by a central agency and the patents which become part of the pool are readily made available for licensing.

-  Anyone who wishes to obtain a license will be able to approach the pool, agree to the terms, and begin to manufacture and sell the products. 

-  Such pools are prevalent in standard essential patents related to telecom and digital innovations.

-  This could be managed by a trustworthy international organisation. 

-  Pool needs the cooperation of not just countries and international organisations but also the hundreds of researchers, innovators, companies and universities involved. 

Benefits of Patent pool:

-  Patent pool will earn billion of dollars in revenue due to high volume of vaccine produced despite keeping its royalty rates to minimum.

-  It will ensure hundreds of manufactures across the world leading to instant availability of the product.

-  Earned royalties can be split between researchers and patent developers with a dedicated fund further researching on developing the new products.

-  It is also in line with the Doha Declaration on Public Health, which is a part of the TRIPS agreement. 

-  It will ‘Protect public health’ and ‘promote access to medicine’.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/needed-a-pandemic-patent-pool/article31477497.ece


Economists call for urban jobs scheme

Recommendations of the Economists:

-  A new Urban Employment Guarantee Act is needed to complement the existing rural jobs scheme during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

-  MGNREGA funding should be increased to at least Rs. 1 lakh crores for the next three months.


Recommended relaxation of the 100 days of work per household limit:

-  Anyone wanting work should be given a job, with card registration made available on site to provide work for the migrant labors.

-  Full minimum wages in cash, as well as dry rations, to be paid to workers within seven days rather than the current 15-day limit.

-  Biometric based payment systems should be avoided for now to avoid overcrowding in the banks.

-  People prevented from working during the pandemic due to medical advisories including those aged over 50, disabled and sick, and pregnant women, should be paid full wages for the duration of the restrictions.



-  The scheme was introduced as a social measure that guarantees “the right to work”. 

-  The key tenet of this social measure and labour law is that the local government will have to legally provide at least 100 days of wage employment in rural India to enhance their quality of life.


Key objectives:

-  Generation of paid rural employment of not less than 100 days for each worker who volunteers for unskilled labour.

-  Proactively ensuring social inclusion by strengthening livelihood base of rural poor.

-  Creation of durable assets in rural areas such as wells, ponds, roads and canals.

-  Reduce urban migration from rural areas.

-  Create rural infrastructure by using untapped rural labour.


The following are the eligibility criteria for receiving the benefits under MGNREGA scheme:

-  Must be Citizen of India to seek NREGA benefits.

-  Job seeker has completed 18 years of age at the time of application.

-  The applicant must be part of a local household (i.e. application must be made with local Gram Panchayats).

-  Applicant must volunteer for unskilled labour.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/economists-call-for-urban-jobs-scheme/article31485622.ece


CAT J&K Bench will hear service matters: Centre

Centre guidelines:

-  All service matters of the employees of the Central government and the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh will be heard by the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) Bench of Jammu and Kashmir.

-  The registration of cases can also be done either online or at the CAT’s secretariat office to be set up locally.

About administrative tribunals:

-  Administrative tribunals are set up under Administrative Tribunals Act 1985.

-  Administrative Tribunals are for adjudication of disputes and complaints with respect to recruitment and conditions of service of persons appointed to the public service and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union and the States.

-  The appeals against the orders of an Administrative Tribunal shall lie before the Division Bench of the concerned High Court.

-  The procedural simplicity of the Act can be appreciated from the fact that the aggrieved person can also appear before it personally.

-  The objective of the Tribunal is to provide for speedy and inexpensive justice to the litigants.

In brief, the tribunal consists of a Chairman, Vice-Chairman and Members.

-  The Members are drawn, both from judicial as well as administrative streams so as to give the Tribunal the benefit of expertise both in legal and administrative spheres.

About Administrative tribunal act 1985:

-  Administrative Tribunals Act owes its origin to Article 323-A of the Constitution which empowers Central Government to set-up a tribunal by an Act of Parliament.

-  The Act provides for establishment of Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) and the State Administrative Tribunals.

-   The CAT was set-up on 1 November 1985. Today, it has 17 regular benches.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/cat-jk-bench-will-hear-service-matters-centre/article31485605.ece

Lockdown extended till May 17; curbs stay on public transport

New Guidelines by Ministry of Home affairs:

-  Allowed considerable relaxations across red, orange and green zones, based on the evidence of COVID-19 infection.

-  Extended the countrywide lockdown till May 17.

-  Asked local authorities to ensure 100% coverage of the AarogyaSetu app among the residents in the containment zones.

-  Use of the AarogyaSetu application is to be mandatory for all employees, both private and public.

-  In green zones, buses can operate with up to 50% seating capacity and bus depots can operate with up to 50% capacity.

-  In orange zones, taxis and cab aggregators will be permitted to ply with only one passenger. 

Inter-district movement of vehicles will be allowed in orange zones for permitted activities.

-  In red zones, other than the containment zones, private cars will be allowed only for permitted activities with a maximum of two persons other than the driver.

-  All forms of other public transport — air, rail, metro and inter-State movement by road — will remain suspended except those allowed in select cases.

About ArogyaSetu App:

-  It has been developed by the National Informatics Centre (NIC) under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

-  It is required for the strategy of aggressive and elaborate ‘contact tracing’ (along with testing) as the key to controlling the disease and restricting its spread.

-  AarogyaSetu is a contact-tracing app that uses GPS coordinates and Bluetooth data to track the user’s location, both on their own, as well as relative to other users.

-  It establishes whether the user have come physically close to someone suffering from COVID-19, and to make an assessment of their risk of infection.

International experience of such app:

-  South Korea and Singapore were the early starters to use such app.

-  In South Korea, the app was rolled out by private developers;

-  In Singapore, it was an initiative of the government.

-  The use of these apps has been credited with a significant extent for these countries’ success in flattening the disease curve.

-  China has been using health apps to ward off a potential second wave of infection.

-  Germany has backed a joint Google-Apple initiative to build a contact tracing API.

Collected data:


-  Deployment of contact tracing apps by governments or public health authorities has added to the debate on online privacy and personal data protection.

-  Questions have also been raised about what happens to the data and the app itself once the pandemic recedes.

Taiwan’s coronavirus protocol shows how it is done

Taiwan status:

-  Confirmed cases: 380

-  Total death: 5

-  Despite its proximity to China, Taiwan ranked 123 among 183 countries in terms of confirmed cases per million people.

Taiwan’s strategy:

Administrative Steps:

-  When information concerning a novel pneumonia outbreak was first confirmed on December 31, 2019, Taiwan began implementing onboard quarantine of direct flights from Wuhan that same day. 

-   On January 2, 2020, Taiwan established a response team for the disease and activated the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) and continuously upgraded its level as crisis deepened.

-  CECC effectively integrated resources from various ministries and invested itself fully in the containment of the epidemic.

-  Implemented dynamic plans like border quarantine measures, including onboard quarantine, fever screening, health declarations, and a 14-day home quarantine for passengers arriving from nations it has listed under the Level 3 Warning. 


Usage of technology:

-  Technology was harnessed like GPS tracking to ensure strict monitoring of self-isolation, storing of travel information on national health card to alert physicians to possible cases and prevent community transmission, usage of self-declared health information to generate pass.

-  Fines are being levied on quarantine offenders according to relevant laws and regulations.


Medical Steps:

-  Increased its laboratory testing capacity.

-  Expanded the scope of its surveillance and inspections based on trends of the COVID-19 epidemic.

-  Focus on testing: retested people with higher risk who had already tested negative, including patients with symptoms of severe influenza.

-  Tiered system for testing: designated 50 regional hospitals and medical centers and 167 community hospitals and clinics.

-  Banned export of surgical masks, and expanded domestic mask production.

-  Achieved effective allocation of limited resources and meet health-care, epidemic prevention, household, and industrial needs.


Global Role:

-  Abided by the International Health Regulations 2005 (IHR 2005) in notifying WHO of confirmed COVID-19 cases.

-  Shared information on confirmed cases, travel and contact histories of patients, and border control measures with other corona hit countries.

-  Uploaded the genetic sequence of COVID-19 to the GISAID Initiative, or the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID).

But, Taiwan is not a member of WHO.


Case for WHO membership for Taiwan:

-  Taiwan could share with the world its renowned public health experience, health system, the NHI, and ability to perform rapid testing as well as research and manufacture vaccines and drugs against COVID-19. 

-  It makes Taiwan a strong case of inclusion in WHO.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/taiwans-coronavirus-protocol-shows-how-it-is-done/article31485581.ece