DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS (UPSC) |04 Jan 2021| RaghukulCS

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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS (UPSC) |04 Jan 2021| RaghukulCS

UPSC News Analysis

News

Context: FSSAI slashes limit for trans-fat levels in foods

Topic in syllabus: Prelims – Science & technology | Mains – Health (GS-2)

What is the limit now?

·     The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has capped the amount of trans fatty acids (TFA) in oils and fats to 3% for 2021 and 2% by 2022 from the current permissible limit of 5% through an amendment to the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restriction on Sales) Regulations.

Effects of transfats on human health & the reasons behind new limits:

Transfats are associated with an increased risk of heart attacks and death from coronary heart disease.  According to the World Health Organization, approximately 5.4 lakh deaths take place each year globally because of the intake of industrially produced trans fatty acids.

·     The FSSAI rule comes at the time of a pandemic where the burden of non-communicable diseases has
risen. Cardiovascular diseases, along with diabetes, are proving fatal for COVID­19 patients.

Efforts of India & WHO:

·     The WHO has also called for the global elimination of transfats by 2023.

·     It was in 2011 that India first passed a regulation that set a TFA limit of 10% in oils and fats, which was further reduced to 5% in 2015.

News

Context: The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has directed the chief executives and the chief vigilance officers of government organisations to finalise by May 31 the pending cases initiated between January 2011 and December 2018.

Topic in syllabus: Prelims – Polity

About CVC:

·     The Central Vigilance Commission was set up by the Government in February,1964 on the recommendations of the Committee on Prevention of Corruption, headed by Shri K. Santhanam, to advise and guide Central Government agencies in the field of vigilance.

·     CVC are conceived to be the apex vigilance institution, free of control from any executive authority, monitoring all vigilance activity under the Central Government and advising various authorities in Central Government organizations in planning, executing, reviewing and reforming their vigilant work.

·     The Commission shall consist of:

o  A Central Vigilance Commissioner – Chairperson;

o  Not more than two Vigilance Commissioners – Members

·     They are appointed by the president.

·     A committee of PM, Home minister & leader of opposition of LokSabha gives recommendation to president.

·     They occupy post till age of 65 years or 4-year term.

·     President can remove them from the post.

·     Consequent upon promulgation of an Ordinance by the President, the Central Vigilance Commission has been made a multi member Commission with “statutory status” with effect from 25th August,1998.

News

Context: China’s President Xi Jinping has signed an order that has amended China’s National Defence Law, giving the Central Military Commission (CMC), which he heads, greater power in mobilising resources to protect a new and broader definition of what constitutes the national interest.

Topic in syllabus: Mains – IR (GS-2)

About new amendments:

·     These revisions weaken the role of the State Council in formulating military policy and hands decision making power to the CMC.

·     The legislation also specifically focuses on the need for building a nationwide coordination mechanism for the mobilisation of state-owned and private enterprises to take part in research into new defence technologies covering conventional weapons, as well as the domains of cybersecurity, space and electromagnetics.

·     Several analysts have opined that the amendments are aimed to strengthen the military leadership under Chinese President Xi Jinping, and providing it with the means to respond to the accelerating confrontations between China and the US.

·     The move to include ‘development interests’ as a reason for armed mobilisation and war in the law would provide legal grounds for the country to launch war in the legitimate name of defending national development interests.

Important news in short

·     Tightening the noose around fraudsters rigging the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime, the government has roped in the Income Tax Department to tap illicit incomes as part of a crackdown against 7,000 fraud companies, identified using data analytics tools, Finance Secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey told.

·     The Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) launched a new initiative — Prayaas — to address the needs of the local communities near its fuel stations.

·     Scientists at the CSIR National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology (NIIST) at Pappanamcode here in Kerala have come up with a new product, banana grit or granules, developed from raw Nendran bananas.

Billed as an ideal ingredient for a healthy diet, banana grit can be used for making
a wide range of dishes, according to the NIIST. The 
 roduct resembles to ‘rava’ and broken wheat. “The concept was introduced to utilise the presence of resistant starch in bananas, which is reported to improve gut health.

·     Several experts have raised concern over the “hasty approval” granted to the COVID­19 vaccines despite the lack of adequate efficacy data. (Read today’s editorial analysis)

There are no Examples related to Ethics (GS-4) in today’s newspaper


UPSC Editorial Analysis

(The Hindu & The Indian Express)

Editorial

Title: An anti-disclosure amendment that hits public health

Written by: Pankhuri Agarwal (an IP law researcher and a Managing Editor at SpicyIP, an IP law blog)

Topic in syllabus: Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health (GS-2)

Analysis about: This editorial talks about the recently published Patent (Amendment) Rules, 2020 & its effects.

Basics:

What is a Patent?

A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention, whether it is a product or a process which gives a new technical solution to a problem, and this patent is granted for a specific period to the inventor.

What are ‘compulsory licenses’ under the Patents Act?

·    In simple terms, compulsory licenses are authorizations given to a third-party by the Government to make, use or sell a particular product or use a particular process which has been patented, without the need of the permission of the patent owner.

·    The provisions regarding compulsory licenses are given in the Indian Patents Act, 1970 and in the TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) Agreement at the International level.

·    Although this works against the patent holder, generally compulsory licenses are only considered in certain cases of national emergency, and health crisis. There are certain pre-requisite conditions which need to be fulfilled if the Government wants to grant a compulsory license in favour of someone.

Introduction:

The central government recently published the Patent (Amendment) Rules, 2020 ­amending the format of a  statement that patentees and licensees are required to annually submit to the Patent Office disclosing the extent to which they have commercially worked or made the patented inventions available to the public in the country.

Important provision in India’s patent law:

·     In exchange of a 20 ­year patent monopoly granted to an inventor, India’s patent law imposes a duty on the patentee to commercially work the invention in India to ensure that its benefits reach the public.

o  The purpose of granting patents itself is to not only encourage innovation but also ensure that the inventions are worked in India and are made available to the public in sufficient quantity at reasonable prices.

·     Section 146 (2), a unique provision not found in patent laws of most other countries, requires every patentee and licensee to submit to the Patent Office an annual statement explaining the extent to which they have worked the invention in India. 

o  The disclosure is to be made in the Form 27 format as prescribed under the Patent Rules, 2003. This statement is meant to help the Patent Office, potential competitors, etc. to determine whether the patentee has worked the invention in India and made it sufficiently available to the public at reasonable prices.

What are the issues related to the Patent act in India?

·     Patentees and licensees as well as the Patent Office have blatantly disregarded many statutory requirements.

·     Also, there has been significant pressure from multinational corporations and the United States government to do away with this requirement.

·     Instead of calling for more elaborate details of the information already sought in the Form, the amended form has removed the requirement of submitting a lot of such important information altogether, thus damaging the core essence of the patent working requirement and the Form 27 format.

What will be the effects of these new rules?

·     Patentees are no longer required to provide any information in respect of the quantum of the invention manufactured/imported into India, the licenses and sub­licenses granted during the year and the meeting of public requirement at a reasonable price.

·     The removal of the requirement of submitting any licensing information, including the disclosure of
even the existence of licenses means that the patentees/licensees can just self-­certify that they’ve worked the patent without having to support the claim with the data on how they’ve done so,
including through licensing/sub­licensing the patent.

  •   The omission to mandate disclosure of details such as the price of the invention, its estimated demand, the extent to which the demand has been met, details of any special schemes or steps undertaken by the patentee to satisfy the demand, etc., makes it extremely difficult to ascertain whether the invention has been made ·    
    available to the public in sufficient quantity
    and at an affordable price.

    ·    We cannot determine the extent to which it has been worked and its public requirement has been met on the data merely of the revenue/value accrued from manufacturing/importing the invention.

    ·   The lack of this information could prevent
    invocation of compulsory licensing and other public interest measures in cases of
    patent abuse and make certain inventions inaccessible to the public.

    ·    Such lack of accessibility in case of patented medicines could in turn have adverse consequences for public health of the country.

    Editorial

    Title: Don’t ignore the women farmers

    Written by: Thamizhachi
    Thangapandian [an academic, Tamil poet, an MP (South Chennai constituency), and member of the Standing Committee (Information and Technology)]

  • ·    Due to cultural, social and religious forces, women have been denied ownership of land.

    ·    The India Human Development Survey reports that 83% of agricultural land in the country is inherited by male members of the family and less than 2% by their female counterparts.

    ·    81% of women agricultural labourers belong to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes, so they also contribute to the largest share of casual and landless labourers.

    ·    The government too turns a blind eye to their problem of non-­recognition and conveniently labels them as ‘cultivators’ or ‘agricultural labourers’ but not ‘farmers’. Without any recognition, women are systematically excluded from all the benefits of government schemes.

    ·     Women are not guaranteed the rights which they would otherwise be given if they were recognised as farmers, such as loans for cultivation, loan waivers, crop insurance, subsidies or even compensation to their families in cases where they commit suicide.

·    Women have unequal access to rights over land, water and forests. There is gendered access to support systems such as storage facilities, transportation costs, and cash for new investments or for paying off old dues or for other services related to agricultural credit.

·    There is also gendered access to inputs and
markets. Thus, despite their large contribution to the sector, women farmers have been reduced to a marginal section, vulnerable to exploitation.

The farm laws – New hurdle:

·    Since the government’s policies never aimed to reduce disparity or alleviate their distress, women farmers fear that the farm laws will further deepen gender inequality in the sector.

  • The lack of any mention of MSP (minimum support price) that protects farmers from exploitation. It also highlights how women are barely in a position as empowered agents who can either understand or negotiate (written) agreements with traders and corporate entities who are seeking to enter
    into agreements with the farmers to purchase their produce or for other services.

    ·    It is clear that farmers will have no bargaining power in the corporatisatisation of agriculture, where corporates will decide the price with no safety net or adequate redressal mechanism for the farmers.

    Conclusion:

    ·   We must not forget the troubles of our women farmers. Perhaps that is why they are at the front line of this protest — to remind us that they are too are farmers and have an equal stake in this fight.

    Editorial

    Title: A hurried gamble

    Topic in syllabus: Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health (GS-2)

Analysis about: This editorial talks about Issues related hurry in the vaccine development and vaccine hesitancy presents in India.

Basics:

What is vaccine hesitancy?

·    It refers to delay in acceptance or refusal of
vaccines despite availability of vaccine services. It is a reluctance or refusal to be vaccinated or to have one’s children vaccinated against contagious diseases.

·    It was identified by the World Health Organization as one of the top ten global health threats of 2019.

·    It Is complex and context specific varying across time, place and vaccines.

·    It Is influenced by factors such as complacency, convenience and confidence.

Introduction:

The stage is set for the biggest vaccine rollout in In­ India’s history with the Drugs Controller General of formally approving two vaccines for res­tricted use under emergency conditions: Covishield by the Serum Institute of India (SII), and Covaxin by Bharat Biotech.

·    India has been long known as a manufacturer of vaccines but less so as one that can develop from scratch, test and then provide it to the world. The pandemic offers an unprecedented opportunity to establish those credentials.

What are the concerns:

·    A double blinded phase­3 trial — where some volunteers get the vaccine and some do not and the rate of disease in both arms is compared to determine the vaccine’s ability — is among the foundations of evidence based medicine.

·    Bharat Biotech, which is conducting such a phase­-3 trial in India, is yet to furnish similar data because it has not been able to finish recruiting the required number of volunteers. The Indian data furnished by the companies only attest to the vaccine’s safety and its evoking some immune response.

·     The concern from approving an untested vaccine is that it makes it nearly impossible to conduct a proper phase­3 trial.

·     It will be unethical to expect volunteers to participate in a trial where there is only a 50% chance of
being administered the actual vaccine, when they have the option of the real dose elsewhere.

·     Both SII and Bharat Biotech, given the pace of recruitment and potential pool of volunteers, would have been able to generate much more data within mere weeks.

Conclusion:

·     Opacity marks the government’s communication strategy in a country where distrust of vaccines remains in spite of years of vaccination programmes and elimination of grave diseases. 

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