UPSC Online Editorial Analysis
Title of the editorial: A looming health crisis
Written by: Atul Bagai (Head, UN Environment Programme, Country Office, India)
Topic in the syllabus: Issues related to health & its management (GS-2)
Analysis about: This editorial talks about how Antimicrobial resistance is growing exponentially and why it needs to be tackled as early as possible.
Severity of the problem:
- Globally, about 35% of common human infections have become resistant to available medicines.
- About 700,000 people die every year because available antimicrobial drugs — antibiotics, antivirals, anti-parasitic and antifungals — have become less effective at combating pathogens.
- Resistance to second and third line antibiotics — the last lines of defence against some common diseases — are projected to almost double between 2005 and 2030.
- According to a study published in The Lancet, an estimated 58,000 new-born children die annually from sepsis in India alone because antibiotics can no longer treat certain bacterial infections.
How water is the major mode of spread of AMR:
- Once consumed, up to 80% of antibiotic drugs are excreted metabolised, along with resistant bacteria.
- Their release in effluents from households and health and pharmaceutical facilities, and agricultural runoff, is propagating resistant microorganisms.
- Wastewater treatment facilities are unable to remove all antibiotics and resistant bacteria.
- In India, there is capacity to treat only about 37% of the sewage generated annually. The rest is discharged into natural water bodies without treatment.
- Water, then, may be a major mode for the spread of AMR, especially in places with inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene.
- Wildlife that comes into contact with discharge containing antimicrobials can also become colonised with drug resistant organisms.
How the global institutions responded so far?
- The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) identified antimicrobial resistance as one of six emerging issues of environmental concern in its 2017 Frontiers Report.
- The UN Environment Assembly pressed the need to further understand the role of environmental pollution in spreading AMR.
- UN agencies are working together to develop the One Health AMR Global Action Plan (GAP) that addresses the issue in human, animal, and plant health and food and environment sectors.
Actions taken by Indian government:
- Early in 2020, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) issued draft standards which set limits for residues of 121 antibiotics in treated effluents from drug production units.
- The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and MoEF&CC constituted the interministerial Steering
Committee on Environment and Health, with representation from WHO and UNEP.
The way forward:
- The Centre and State governments in India can strengthen the environmental dimensions of their plans to tackle antimicrobial resistance.
- It is important to promote measures that address known hotspots such as hospitals and manufacturing and waste treatment facilities.
- We saw how quickly a pandemic can spread if we are not ready. This is an opportunity to get ahead of the next one.
Title of the editorial: A safety net for farmers
Written by: Christophe Jaffrelot and Hemal Thakker
Topic in the syllabus: Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices; Public Distribution System- objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security. (GS-3)
Analysis about: This editorial talks about Why liberalising Indian agriculture is not in sync with what other countries do.
[We will discuss relevant points only]
Why liberalising Indian agriculture is not in sync with what other countries do?
- In the US, the agriculture sector is expected to receive $46 billion in federal subsidies this year. This accounts for about 40 per cent of the total farm income and, if not for those subsidies, the US farm income was poised to decline in 2020, according to a report by The New York Times.
- Similarly, the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy spending has averaged €54 billion annually since 2006.
- Without some support from the state, the smallest of Indian peasants would be even more vulnerable. According to provisional numbers from the 10th Agriculture Census 2015–2016, in India, “smallholder and marginal farmers” (those with less than two hectares of land) account for 86.2 per cent of all cultivators — that is, almost 126 million people.
- For them, it is inconceivable to carry their produce to other states or far- off places to sell. They will not easily resist the deals “proposed” by agribusiness firms.
- “Should they disappear in the name of the modernisation of agriculture, which means concentration of land and mechanisation?” ask the authors.
The way forward:
- Authors write that for making farming sustainable, the government should draw inspiration from Andhra Pradesh’s community-managed farming model which promotes agro-ecological principles with the use of locally produced, ecologically sustainable inputs, focusing on soil health, instead of depending on chemical fertilisers.
- This model is more resilient as well as more biodiverse in nature and provides a safety net to farmers.
Title: Why is consent of the Attorney General required to initiate contempt proceedings?
Topic in the syllabus: Polity (GS-4)
- Attorney General for India K K Venugopal granted consent to initiate criminal contempt of court proceedings against comic illustrator Rachita Taneja for allegedly scandalising the judiciary through her tweets and illustrations.
What is the procedure for bringing a criminal contempt of court case against an individual?
- The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, lays down the law on contempt of court.
- In the case of the Supreme Court, the Attorney General or the Solicitor General, and in the case of High Courts, the Advocate General, may bring in a motion before the court for initiating a case of criminal contempt.
- However, if the motion is brought by any other person, the consent in writing of the Attorney General or the Advocate General is required.
But why does the Attorney General have to grant consent?
- The objective behind requiring the consent of the Attorney General before taking cognizance of a complaint is to save the time of the court.
- Judicial time is squandered if frivolous petitions are made and the court is the first forum for bringing them in.
- The AG’s consent is meant to be a safeguard against frivolous petitions, as it is deemed that the AG, as an officer of the court, will independently ascertain whether the complaint is indeed valid.
Is the AG’s consent mandatory for all contempt of court cases?
- The AG’s consent is mandatory when a private citizen wants to initiate a case of contempt of court against a person. Before such a plea can be filed, the Attorney General must sign off on the complaint, determining if it requires the attention of the court at all.
- However, when the court itself initiates a contempt of court case, as it did in the case of Prashant Bhushan recently, the AG’s consent is not required.
- This is because the court is exercising its inherent powers under the Constitution to punish for contempt and such Constitutional powers cannot be restricted because the AG declined to grant consent.
And what happens if the AG denies consent?
- If the AG denies consent, the matter all but ends. In August, AG Venugopal had refused to grant consent to initiate criminal contempt proceedings against actor Swara Bhasker for allegedly making derogatory comments against the Supreme Court.
- The law has a limitation period of one year for bringing in action against an individual.
- The complainant can, however, separately bring the issue to the notice of the court and urge the court to take suo motu (on its own motion) cognizance.
- Article 129 of the Constitution gives the Supreme Court the power to initiate contempt cases on its own, independent of the motion brought before it by the AG or with the consent of the AG.
What happens after the AG has granted consent?
- Once the consent of the Attorney General is given in writing, a notice under The Contempt of Courts Act is served personally on the person against whom the proceedings are sought to be initiated by the court.
- If the court is satisfied that the alleged contemnor is likely to abscond or evade judicial proceedings, it can order attachment of property of a value that it deems reasonable.
- Once the notice is served, the alleged contemnor may file an affidavit in support of his defence, explaining the nature and circumstances of her remarks.
- The case is required under the Act to be heard by a Bench of at least two judges.
- The court then takes into account any evidence available to check the affidavit, and pass appropriate orders