IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


4th May, 2020


India’s disease surveillance system needs a reboot

Trends of Corona disease:

- 75.3% of deaths have been concentrated in the age group of 60 years and above,

- In 83% of deaths, the deceased were battling pre-existing identified health conditions. 

- Trends confirm that the disease is lethal for those with compromised immunity brought on by age, existing respiratory infections, or essentially, malnutrition.


Affect of Corona on other diseases:

- Poor have little access to major public hospitals in the wake of the lockdown. 

- Routine functioning, particularly of out-patient department services in public hospitals, has been severely affected.

- Only emergency cases are being entertained.

- There is complaint of high-handedness of hospital staff in the still functioning emergency intensive care unit, labour rooms and tuberculosis (TB) wards.

- Cardiology and Neurology departments are turning away many in the bid to streamline “critical” cases.

- All of it may lead to further aggravation of the poor health outcomes.


Other issues remain unidentified:

- Many of the adverse medical conditions prevalent among the vast majority of our country are not even identified due to the lax disease surveillance system.

- Lack of access to healthcare system results into non-reporting of conditions to certified medical practitioners.

- After reporting, clinical case does not always culminate in the required testing (blood/serum, throat swab, sputum, stool and urine).

- Pathological laboratories tend to categories diseases on the basis of the pre-existing classificatory system, which results in failure to identify the definitive cause (aetiology) for an illness.


Presence of Silent epidemic:

-  Many ailments are simply clubbed together and referred to by generic names such as ‘Respiratory Tract Infection’ (RTI), ‘Urinary Tract Infection’, ‘Acute Febrile Illness (AFI)’, ‘Acute Undifferentiated Fever’, ‘Fever of Unknown Origin’ (FUO). These unidentified diseases claim many lives especially of the poor, who are having low immunity.

- 99% of these deaths are reported from developing countries and India has a larger share in it. These diseases are called silent epidemics.


Reasons behind Silent epidemics:

- Lack of Scientific research: There is a lack of interest from scientific research even after identifying the definitive cause of an illness.

- Profit driven agenda: Selective, biased approach of mainstream scientific research that is driven by the profits of private pharmaceutical companies. 

- Lack of will to take action: Knowledge of the pathogen and consequently, the required disease control soon lag behind. 

- Known identity and treatment are not guarantee of necessary actions on behalf of government. For example in case of TB; according to public health experts, one person in every 10 seconds contracts TB and up to 1,400 people in India dies every day of the disease. Still, TB and many other contagious diseases are ignored as “ordinary”, and elicit very low attention. 

- Class Biasness: When diseases have threat of transmission to the well-to-do sections of society or wealthier regions, then it is classified as epidemic.


Way Forward:

- Pre-existing diseases have the potential to combine with COVID-19 and with devastating consequences.

-  It becomes imperative to identify the comparative fatality rates of many of the silent epidemics, which in their own right require urgent attention.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/indias-disease-surveillance-system-needs-a-reboot/article31496798.ece


African swine fever: Assam told to go for culling

Assam Situation:

- Centre has advised the State government to go for the culling of pigs affected by the African swine fever (ASF).

- Assam has been told to divide the affected areas into zones and go for culling accordingly.

- The situation is quite serious since there are many farmers with more than 20 lakh pigs.

- The disease was first reported in November-December 2019 from areas of China bordering Arunachal Pradesh. 


About African swine fever:

- African swine fever (ASF) is a severe viral disease affecting domestic and wild pigs;

- It is responsible for serious production and economic losses;

- This transboundary animal disease (TAD) can be spread by live or dead pigs, domestic or wild, and pork products;
- Furthermore, transmission can also occur via contaminated feed and fomites (non-living objects) such as shoes, clothes, vehicles, knives, equipment etc., due to the high environmental resistance of ASF virus.

- There is no approved vaccine against ASF (unlike classical swine fever (‘Hog Cholera’) which is caused by a different virus)

- Historically, outbreaks have been reported in Africa and parts of Europe, South America, and the Caribbean. More recently (since 2007) the disease has been reported in multiple countries across Africa, Asia and Europe, in both domestic and wild pigs.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-otherstates/african-swine-fever-assam-told-to-go-for-culling/article31497082.ece



Pandemics without borders, South Asia’s evolution


-  Covid 19 may not have the disease burden on South Asia but it will wound this region gravely economically and as the process unfolds, socio-politically. 


Impact on South Asia:

-  Impending recession can waste more than half a century’s effort against poverty.

-  Complete neglect of the majority labor class.


Centralisation tendencies in South Asia as response to Covid-19:

-  The response of the regimes has been to entrench themselves further.

-  Countries have tightened state control through surveillance, repressive laws and radical populism backed by ultra-nationalism.

-  Strengthening of the top-down rule.

-  In Pakistan, the Army has Prime Minister Imran Khan against the ropes.

-  In Sri Lanka, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has granted pardon to a war criminal. 

-  In Nepal, Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli engages the military to carry out key COVID-19 tasks, from buying protective gear to contact tracing.

-   It has solidified the foundation of Sheikh Hasina’s one-party rule in Bangladesh.

-  India gave only four hour notice before lockdown, leading to stranding of more than 350 million migrants.

-  The Indian state, mass media and social media has exhibited the majoritarian attitude towards India’s 200 million Muslims.


Challenges to India:

-  It has been aspirational for neighbouring societies.

-  But, the trajectory of India, with its galloping centralisation, removes governance from the people’s reach. 

-  The strident Hindutva-laced nationalism, which can only divert attention of the huddled masses, spread neither prosperity nor social justice.

-  India simply cannot succeed as a hard power as it has shone in the world because of its soft power, defined by a textured history, empathetic open society, “scientific temper” and Gandhian legacy. 

-   India is also weakened internally by the New Delhi intelligentsia’s China fixation, which must be overcome.


Way Forward:

-  There is a need for reformatting of relationships: Internally and Externally.

-  Internally, power must devolve from the capital to the provincial units of the two larger countries (Pakistan and India).

-  There is need for empowerment of the local government.

-  Externally, the countries of South Asia must bring down the hyper-nationalist mind barriers to allow porous borders, thereby reviving historical synergies in economy, ecology and culture.

-  It will ensure social justice and economic growth.

-  There is a need for reducing the military expenditures.


Need for Regionalism:

-  Regionalism would lead to collaborative battles against pestilence, and for wealth creation through trade, comparative advantage, and economies of scale.

-  Regionalism would help fight plastic pollution in our rivers, battle the air pollution that wafts across our frontiers, promote cooperation in natural and human-made disasters and boost the economies of the geographical “periphery” of each country.

-  South Asia –wide thinking is the path for India’s own socio-economic advance, and the way to garner international recognition of its soft power. 


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/pandemics-without-borders-south-asias-evolution/article31496796.ece


Central health teams to monitor 20 districts with heavy case load

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in India crossed 40,000 on Sunday, making it one among 16 countries that have crossed that figure. 


About Central Health Teams:

-  The Centre has announced the formation of Central Public Health teams to investigate 20 districts in 10 States which have registered the maximum cases.

-  These teams will comprise experts from the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), AIIMS, JIPMER and the All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health among others.

-  In terms of total cases, three other countries are comparable to India — the Netherlands, Peru and Belgium with confirmed infections from 40,000-49,900.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/central-health-teams-to-monitor-20-districts-with-heavy-case-load/article31496892.ece


Centre drafts new rules for satellite TV channels


- The Information and Broadcasting Ministry has issued draft guidelines with stringent provisions for any violations, with an additional clause that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) can step in to revoke the security clearance in case of repeated violations.


Need for new Policy:

- Fast evolving broadcasting technology

- Changes in the market scenarios


Industry Comment:

- The policy is a “half-measure”.

- Given its political nature, the amount of reference to MHA will discourage investors. As there are concerns about “too much reference to the Ministry of Home Affairs”.

- Ministry in black and white has listed out 11 violations. 


Violations Include:

- Delay or non-intimation to the Ministry about change in the shareholding pattern of the company.

- Appointment of a Director without prior permission of the Ministry.

- Non-removal of a Director who has been denied security clearance.

- Showing dual logo or name not permitted by the Ministry. 


Draft Guidelines:

- All channels have to take security clearance from the Ministry of Home Affairs.

- Once granted, the clearance is valid for 10 years.

- The MHA can withdraw the clearance, which would mean that the permission to uplink would stand terminated automatically.

- A welcome change is the relaxation offered for non-news category channels to broadcast live events.

- A broadcaster, who didn’t want to be named, said all sports channels had to take separate permission 15-days before telecasting a live event.

- Instead of seeking permission, now the channel merely has to register online at Broadcast Seva with the necessary document five days prior to the telecast.


About Satellite TV:

- Satellite television is a service that delivers television programming to viewers by relaying it from a communications satellite orbiting the Earth directly to the viewer's location.

- The signals are received via an outdoor parabolic antenna commonly referred to as a satellite dish and a low-noise block down converter.

- Receivers can be external set-top boxes, or a built-in television tuner.

- Satellite television provides a wide range of channels and services.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/centre-drafts-new-rules-for-satellite-tv-channels/article31496827.ece



‘Economic recovery may take over a year’

Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) recommendations:

-  Aggressive door-to-door testing, or group testing covering 100% of the population to start full industrial operations including the containment zones.

-  Following of stringent sanitation and distancing protocols.

-  Providing Personal protective equipment free of cost to all the workers.

-  Workers would have to be housed on the premises or within walking distance.

-  Both raw materials and finished goods would be disinfected and kept in isolation for 72 hours before use.

-  The cost of undertaking precautionary measures by way of repeated sanitation, wearing of PPE, masks, monitoring, group testing etc. will be much less than the economic loss if businesses in such high performing districts have to remain shut for a longer duration.


Results of CII Poll:

- Two-thirds of respondents expect their revenues to fall more than 40% in the current April to June 2020 quarter.

-  For the full financial year 2020-21, a third of respondents still expect a more than 40% revenue fall

-  One third expect their topline to drop between 20% and 40%.

-  Only 18% do not expect job losses in their sector.

-  Only 35% have faced salary reductions in their own firms so far.


About Confederation of Indian Industry (CII):

-  CII is a non-government, not-for-profit, industry-led and industry-managed organization.

-   It was founded in 1895.

-  It has members from the private as well as public sectors, including SMEs and MNCs.


About Personal Protective Equipment:

-  Infection prevention and control measures include, among other measures: hand hygiene, personal protective equipment and waste management materials.
-  The Protective equipment consists of garments placed to protect the health care workers or any other persons to get infected.
-  These usually consist of standard precautions: gloves, mask, and gown.

-  If it is blood or airborne high infections, will include Face protection, goggles and mask or face shield, gloves, gown or coverall, head cover, rubber boots.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/economic-recovery-may-take-over-a-year/article31496832.ece



Javadekar slams report on press freedom

Minister’s response:

-  The government “will expose” surveys that portray a “bad picture about ‘freedom of Press’ in India”.

-  Media has the power to inform and enlighten people. Media in India enjoy absolute freedom.


Indian Performance in the Index:

- India dropped two places on the global press freedom index ranking to 142nd place in the list of 180 countries.

-  India’s neighbours — Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka — are ranked higher in the list.

-  It said that with no murders of journalists in India in 2019, as against six in 2018, the security situation for the country's media might seem, on the face of it, to have improved.

-  There have been constant press freedom violations, including police violence against journalists, ambushes by political activists and reprisals instigated by criminal groups or corrupt local officials.


Press Freedom Index:

-  It is released by the Reporters Without Borders.

-  It has been published every year since 2002.

-  The Index ranks 180 countries and regions according to the level of freedom available to journalists.

-  It is a snapshot of the media freedom situation based on an evaluation of pluralism, independence of the media, quality of legislative framework and safety of journalists in each country and region.

-  It does not rank public policies even if governments obviously have a major impact on their country’s ranking. 

-  It is not an indicator of the quality of journalism in each country or region.

- It calculates a global indicator and regional indicators that evaluate the overall performance of countries and regions (in the world and in each region) as regards media freedom.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/javadekar-slams-report-on-press-freedom/article31496833.ece


126 lakh tonnes of food grains given to States: FCI

Supply of Food Grains:

- The Food Corporation of India (FCI) has supplied around 126 lakh tonnes of food grains.

- It is equivalent to two-and-a half months’ supply in normal situations.

- Between March 25 and April 30, States and union territories obtained 37.13 lakh tonnes of wheat and 89 tonnes of rice, totaling 126.13 lakh tonnes.

- On an average, every month, the FCI issues around 50 lakh tonnes of food grains to States and union territories under the norms of the National Food Security Act (NFSA) and other schemes.


Reasons behind Increased allocation:

- implementation of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana (PMGKAY), under which beneficiaries of the NFSA are given 5 kg of food grains each per month free of cost for three months (April – June) over and above their monthly entitlement of 5 kg per person has contributed to steep hike.



National Food Security act:

- The National Food Security Act, 2013 (also Right to Food Act) is an Act of the Parliament of India which aims to provide subsidized food grains to approximately two thirds of India's 1.2 billion people.

- It includes the Midday Meal SchemeIntegrated Child Development Services scheme and the Public Distribution System.

- Further, the NFSA 2013 recognizes maternity entitlements.

- The Midday Meal Scheme and the Integrated Child Development Services Scheme are universal in nature whereas the PDS will reach about two-thirds of the population (75% in rural areas and 50% in urban areas).

- Within the coverage under TPDS determined for each State, the work of identification of eligible households is to be done by States/UTs.

- Up to 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population will be covered under TPDS, with uniform entitlement of 5 kg per person per month.

- Food grains under TPDS will be made available at subsidised prices of Rs. 3/2/1 per kg for rice, wheat and coarse grains for a period of three years from the date of commencement of the Act.

- Pregnant women and lactating mothers and children in the age group of 6 months to 14 years will be entitled to meals as per prescribed nutritional norms under Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and Mid-Day Meal (MDM) schemes.

- Eldest woman of the household of age 18 years or above to be the head of the household for the purpose of issuing of ration cards.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/126-lakh-tonnes-of-food-grains-given-to-states-fci/article31496858.ece