IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


3rd April, 2020


Geo­fencing app will be used to locate quarantine violators

-       The Centre is using powers under the Indian Telegraph Act to “fetch information” from telecom companies every 15 minutes to track COVID­19 cases across the country.

About Geo-fencing:

-       It is an application that triggers e­mails and SMS alerts to an authorized government agency, if a person has jumped quarantine or escaped from isolation, based on the person’s mobile phone cell tower location.

-       The “geo­fencing” is accurate by up to 300 m.

-       Kerala was one of the first States to use geo­fencing to track COVID­19 cases.

-       On March 29, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) shared a standard operating procedure (SOP) with all telecom service providers regarding the application called COVID­19 Quarantine Alert System (CQAS).

-       The system will collate phone data, including the device’s location, on a common secured platform and alert the local agencies in case of a violation by COVID­19 patients under watch or in isolation.

-       The States have been asked to seek the approval of their Home Secretaries under the provisions of Section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, for the specified mobile phone numbers to request the DoT to provide information by email or SMS in case of violation of “geofencing”.

-       The particular provision under the Act, amended multiple times since 1885, authorises the State or the Centre to access information of a user’s phone data in case of “occurrence of any public emergency or in the interest of the public safety.”

-       The SOP said that geo-fencing will only work if the quarantined person has a mobile phone from Airtel, Vodafone­Idea or Reliance Jio, as “BSNL/MTNL” do not support location based services. BSNL and MTNL are government owned.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/coronavirus-geo-fencing-app-will-be-used-to-locate-quarantine-violators/article31241055.ece

Quarantine and the law


-       In India, the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, a law of colonial vintage, empowers the state to take special measures, including inspection of passengers, segregation of people and other special steps for the better prevention of the spread of dangerous diseases.

-       It was amended in 1956 to confer powers upon the Central government to prescribe regulations or impose restrictions in the whole or any parts of India to control and prevent the outbreak of hazardous diseases.

-       Quarantine has been invoked several times during the crisis caused by the cholera, smallpox, plague and other diseases in India.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/quarantine-and-the-law/article31241185.ece

Making the private sector care for public health


-       A preparedness plan has to address all levels of care in terms of infrastructure, equipment, testing facilities and human resources in both the public and private sectors.

-       One way of expanding such facilities would be for the government to ‘take over’ private corporate laboratories and hospitals for a limited period. A graduated approach to this is possible by asking tertiary private hospitals to create ICU facilities and isolation wards to care for the moderate and severe cases under the supervision of the government.

-       The National Health Authority has recommended that the testing and treatment of COVID­19 be included in the PM­Jan Arogya Yojana (PM­JAY) but this proposal is still awaiting clearance.

-       About PM­Jan Arogya Yojana (PM­JAY)

-       It is the second component under Ayushman Bharat.

-       It is the largest health assurance scheme in the world, which aims at providing a health cover of Rs. 5 lakhs per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization to over 10.74 crores poor and vulnerable families (approximately 50 crores beneficiaries) that form the bottom 40% of the Indian population.

-       The households included are based on the deprivation and occupational criteria of Socio-Economic Caste Census 2011 (SECC 2011) for rural and urban areas respectively.

-       PM-JAY was earlier known as the National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS) before being rechristened. It subsumed the then existing Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) which had been launched in 2008. The coverage mentioned under PM-JAY, therefore, also includes families that were covered in RSBY but are not present in the SECC 2011 database.

-       PM-JAY is fully funded by the Government and cost of implementation is shared between the Central and State Governments.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/making-the-private-sector-care-for-public-health/article31241291.ece

Doctors wary of BCG vaccine study

-       Doctors and scientists in India have expressed caution on a study, which argues that countries that have deployed the BCG­tuberculosis vaccine in their immunisation programmes have seen fewer deaths from COVID­19.

-       About BCG Vaccine

-       The BCG vaccine is known to confer a strong immune response that have protective effects beyond just staving off a tuberculosis infection and because COVID­19 was particularly lethal to the elderly, those countries where the elderly were likely to have had a BCG shot in their childhood were likely to be better protected against the corona virus, the authors argue.

-       However, it is premature for India — that has had a consistent TB vaccination policy since 1968 — to take comfort as per doctors.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/health/coronavirus-doctors-wary-of-bcg-vaccine-study/article31234253.ece



Forest department comes to the rescue of tribals

-       The Forest Department has begun to procure forest produce collected by the tribes people of the Agasthyavanam Biological Park (ABP) and the Neyyar and Peppara forest ranges to be sold to commercial establishments and various collectives. 

About Agasthyavanam Biological Park

-       Established in 1997, Agasthyavanam Biological Park is a wildlife sanctuary in Kerala, under the Agasthyavanam Project.

-       The park has been named after the mesmerizing Agastimalai Agasthyakoodam Peak, which can be seen at a distance from here. It is a protected area in the Western Ghats.

-       It lies between the Neyyar and Peppara Wildlife Sanctuaries.

-       About Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary

-       It is in Kerala, spread over the southeast corner of the Western Ghats.

-       This is the drainage basin for the Neyyar River and its tributaries - Mullayar and Kallar.

-       There are 39 species of mammals, including tiger, leopard, sloth bear, elephant, sambar, barking deer, bonnet macaque, Nilgiri langur and Nilgiri tahr.

-       About Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary

-       It is near Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India. It consists of the catchment area of the Karamana River, which originates from Chemmunjimottai, the tallest hill within the sanctuary. The sanctuary is named after the Peppara dam, commissioned in 1983 to augment the drinking water supply to Thiruvananthapuram city and suburban areas. Considering the ecological significance of the area, it was declared a sanctuary in 1983.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/forest-department-to-the-rescue-of-tribespeople/article31241953.ece

Safe forests, safe people

-       Diseases of animal origin such as Ebola, HIV, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, bird flu and swine flu have raised alarm over potential pandemics in recent years.

-       Underlying factors

-       The destruction

-       n of forests and trapping or farming of wild species has brought these animals closer to humans 

-       Rising economic activity, such as road building and mining cutting through forests, bringing more people in close contact with animals.

-       Another dimension is the global trade in wild species.

-       The well-documented histories of the lethal Nipah and Hendra viruses, involving transfer from bats to pigs in the former, and bats to horses in the latter, underscore the value of maintaining viable ecosystems, and eliminating the need for wild bats to colonise human surroundings.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/safe-forests-safe-people-the-hindu-editorial-on-diseases-of-animal-origin/article31242337.ece