Daily Prelims Newsletter for upsc 17 May 2022

Daily Prelims Newsletter For UPSC
| RaghukulCS

17 May 2022-Tuesday

Table Of Contents

Table of Contents

Global Assistive Technology Report

Why is this newsworthy?

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have released the first Global Report on Assistive Technology in collaboration (GReAT).

What is the Global Report on Assistive Technology (GReAT) all about?

The 71st World Health Assembly resolution in 2018 to compile a global report on effective access to assistive technology culminated in this study.

The report is significant since 90 percent of persons who require assistive technology do not have it, and incorporating assistive technology into health systems is crucial for progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) targets for Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

What are the Report’s Key Highlights?

People Require Assistive Devices:

Over 2.5 billion individuals require one or more assistive items, such as wheelchairs, hearing aids, or communication and cognition-enhancing apps.

People Who Were Refused Assistive Products:

A billion of people are denied access, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, where access to these life-changing products can be as low as 3% of the demand.

Future Number of People Who Will Require Assistive Products:

Due to population ageing and the increased prevalence of non-communicable diseases around the world, the number of people in need of one or more assistive goods is expected to reach 3.5 billion by 2050.

In addition, cost is a significant barrier to entry.

Large Gaps in Service Provision and Skilled Workforce: The report’s examination of 70 nations identified significant gaps in service provision and trained workforce for assistive technology, particularly in the domains of cognition, communication, and self-care.

What exactly is Assistive Technology?

AT refers to any item, piece of equipment, software programme, or product system that is used to help people with disabilities increase, maintain, or improve their functional abilities.

Prosthetics, braces, walkers, customised switches, special-purpose computers, screen readers, and specialised curricular software are examples of technologies and gadgets.

Assistive technology coverage that is universal means that everyone, everywhere gets the AT they need without financial or other barriers.

Hearing aides, wheelchairs, communication aids, spectacles, artificial limbs, pill organisers, memory aids, and other critical products for the aged and disabled were included in the WHO’s Priority Assistive Products List released in 2018.

What is the scope of the issue in India?

2011 Census:

According to the 2011 Census, people with disabilities account for 2.21 percent of the overall population, with the majority of those aged 19 to 59 having visual, hearing, speech, locomotor, and mental disorders.

Between the 2001 and 2011 census periods, the country’s disabled population expanded by 22.4 percent, while the total population increased by 17.6 percent.

Following the notification of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act in 2016, the 76th round (July-December 2018) of the National Sample Survey (NSS) revealed that 21.8 percent of persons with disabilities reported receiving aid/help from the government, with another 1.8 percent reporting receiving aid/help from other organisations.

The rapid Assistive Technology Assessment (rATA) is a technique created by the WHO for national representative surveys to determine unmet need for assistive technology. When it is ready for India, it will provide granular evidence of the demand-side.

Why is a Health-Industry Interface Required?

Ensure universal access to assistive technology:

Maintaining the UHC strategy is critical to ensuring universal assistive technology coverage, which ensures that every citizen has access to the equipment they require without financial hardship.

The tasks include I developing and delivering the whole range of AT, (ii) integrating rehabilitative services as an important strategy in long-term care, (iii) providing rehabilitation at the primary health-care level, and (iv) supporting community-based rehabilitation.

Required to Meet the Needs of a Diverse User Base:

To fulfil the needs of a diverse range of customers and provide a greater selection of products that match their needs, AT system components must be manufactured and distributed.

Collaboration between academia, industry, and government will aid in assessing manufacturing capacity, determining the immediate need for specific AT and products, and developing a regulatory framework to ensure that users receive products that are safe, secure, and effective in accordance with approved standards.

Ongoing programmes such as Make in India and Digital India, as well as health insurance programmes such as Ayushman Bharat – Pradhan Mantri, are examples of related projects. The Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY) can meet the AT needs of the most vulnerable 40% of the population and help them get back on their feet.

Accessible India Campaign: Creating an Accessible Environment for People with Disabilities DeenDayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme

Students with Disabilities National Fellowship

International Day of Persons with Disabilities is a unique disability identification project.

What are the suggestions?

  • Increase access to education, health, and social services.
  • Ensure that assistive products are available, safe, effective, and affordable.
  • Increase the size, diversity, and quality of your staff.
  • Actively engage assistive technology users and their families.
  • Increase public awareness and stigma reduction
  • Invest in data and evidence-based policy; research, innovation, and a supportive ecosystem
  • Create and invest in supportive surroundings.
  • Incorporate assistive technology into humanitarian relief efforts.
  • To support national efforts, provide technical and economic aid through international cooperation.

Rice fortification

Why is this newsworthy?

According to new research, the Union government’s intention to provide subsidised iron-fortified rice to Adivasis, or indigenous peoples, who suffer from sickle-cell anaemia and thalassemia and are genetically predisposed to these diseases, may cause more harm than good.

What is Fortification in Food?

To boost the nutritional value of staple foods such as rice, milk, and salt, fortification is the addition of important vitamins and minerals such as iron, iodine, zinc, Vitamin A, and D.

These nutrients might or might not have been present in the food before it was processed.

Rice fortification is a cost-effective and complementary technique for increasing vitamin and mineral content in meals, according to the Food Ministry.

1 kg fortified rice will contain iron (28 mg-42.5 mg), folic acid (75-125 microgram), and Vitamin B-12, according to FSSAI standards (0.75-1.25 microgram).

Rice can also be fortified with micronutrients such as zinc, Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, and Vitamin B6 alone or in combination.

Why is Food Fortification Required?

Malnutrition among mothers and children in India is extremely high. Every second woman in the country is anaemic, and every third child is stunted, according to the Food Ministry.

India has slid to 101st place out of 116 countries in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2021, down from 94th place in 2020.

Micronutrient malnutrition, sometimes known as “hidden hunger,” is a major health hazard.

Rice is a staple food in India, consumed by almost two-thirds of the population. In India, per capita rice consumption is 6.8 kilogramme per month. As a result, adding vitamins to rice can help poor people supplement their diet.

What are the Problems with Rice Fortification?

Evidence that supports fortification is inconclusive, and it is certainly insufficient before substantial national measures are implemented.

Many of the studies used by the FSSAI to support fortification are funded by food corporations who stand to benefit from it, creating conflicts of interest.


According to research published in the medical journal Lancet and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, both anaemia and Vitamin A deficits are overdiagnosed, implying that obligatory fortification could result in hypervitaminosis.

Hypervitaminosis is a disorder characterised by excessively high vitamin storage levels, which can manifest as excessive enthusiasm, irritation, or even poisoning.


One of the most significant drawbacks of chemical food fortification is that nutrients do not operate in isolation and require each other for optimum absorption.

In India, undernutrition is induced by monotonous cereal-based diets with poor vegetable and animal protein consumption.

Adding a few synthetic artificial vitamins and minerals will not alleviate the greater problem, and it may cause toxicity in undernourished communities.

A 2010 study found that iron supplementation in undernourished infants causes gut inflammation and a pathogenic gut microbial profile.

Mandatory fortification would affect India’s enormous informal sector of farmers and food processors, including local oil and rice mills, while benefiting a small group of international businesses with control over a market worth Rs.3,000 crore.

Reduced Natural Food Value: Dietary diversification was a more healthy and cost-effective strategy to combat hunger.

Once iron-fortified rice is promoted as a cure for anaemia, the value and availability of naturally iron-rich foods such as millets, green leafy vegetables, meat items, and liver, to mention a few, will be severely limited.

Next Steps

The right to make informed eating choices is a fundamental right. A basic right is the right to know what one is eating. In the instance of rice fortification, no prior informed agreement from the recipients was ever sought.

Precision is required because no nutrient consumed in excess is beneficial.

The solution to nutritional inadequacies is not universal fortification.

Food Price Increases

Why is this newsworthy?

Food prices have reached new highs around the world this year, as the Russia-Ukraine conflict reduces important exports of wheat and fertiliser from both countries, while droughts, floods, and heat brought on by climate change have claimed more harvests.

What Causes Food Price Inflation?

Ukraine-Russia Conflict:

Russia and Ukraine produce around 30% of world wheat exports, however as a result of the conflict, those exports have decreased.

Wheat in abundance:
  • Wheat inventories in the United States are still rather large, despite the fact that it is mostly consumed in the nations where it is farmed.
  • However, the decrease in Russian and Ukrainian exports has increased competition for the remaining wheat on the world market, resulting in higher prices that are especially onerous for poorer, debt-ridden countries that rely largely on imports.
  • Ukraine and Russia account for about 40% of Africa’s wheat imports, while rising global wheat prices have pushed bread costs in Lebanon up 70%.

Governments have failed to limit excessive speculation and ensure transparency of food supplies and commodity markets since the previous food price crises in 2007-2008 and 2011-2012.

What Has Been the Recent Inflationary Trend?

The Food and Agriculture Organization’s food price index for April 2022 increased by 29.8% year over year.

Furthermore, all commodity group price indices have seen significant increases: cereals (34.3%), vegetable oils (46.5%), dairy (23.5%), sugar (21.8%), and meat (21.8%). (16.8 percent ).

Simply put, food inflation is already rising globally due to supply interruptions caused by the war, dry weather in South America, high crude prices causing more corn, sugar, palm, and soyabean oil to be diverted for biofuel, and so on.

How Do Food Prices Affect Domestic Prices?

The extent to which global inflation is transmitted to domestic food prices is largely determined by how much of a country’s consumption/production is imported/exported.

Edible oils and cotton, which account for up to two-thirds of India’s consumption and a fifth of its output, are examples of this transmission.

Wheat yields have been badly impacted by the heat wave that began in mid-March, putting pressure on public inventories and total domestic availability, even as open market prices have increased to export parity levels.

As expected, the Centre has opted to reduce wheat allocations and increase rice distributions under its flagship free-grains programme. Similarly, export demand is boosting maize prices well over the Minimum Support Price (MSP).

However, this, combined with increasing oil meal prices, will raise livestock feed costs, resulting in inflation in milk, eggs, and meat.

  • For now, the consolation is that legumes, sugar, onion, potato, and other summer vegetables have seen little to no inflation.
  • Food inflation in India isn’t yet “generalised” to that extent.
  • Despite record mill exports, retail prices for sugar have remained relatively stable.
  • The reason for this is that production is likewise at an all-time high
How can we combat food inflation?

Consuming Less Meat and Dairy: Because livestock consume so much grain, convincing people to eat less meat and dairy might drastically increase grain supply.

The global deficit of cereals on export markets is anticipated to reach 20-25 million tonnes this year, while Europeans alone could lower demand by 18-19 million tonnes by cutting their intake of animal products by 10%.

Improving Grain Storage: Improving grain storage, particularly in nations that are heavily reliant on imports, as well as assisting those countries in growing more staple foods at home – rather than cash crops for export, which have often supplanted staples – could be beneficial.

Planting a Wider Range of Crops: Planting a wider range of crops internationally could improve food security by reducing reliance on just a few grains and markets dominated by a few number of exporters.

Policy shifts: Policy shifts in countries like Africa’s proposed continental free trade area could help some poorer countries minimise their reliance on distant producers and unstable supply chains.

Investing in Climate-Friendly Agriculture:

Furthermore, investing in climate-smart agriculture to conserve harvests as the planet warms would help shore up global food supplies, while debt relief might allow the poorest countries more fiscal room to manage food price variations.

Boost Domestic Manufacturing:

In conclusion, while global food inflation is unavoidable, the only way to limit the consequences of “imported” inflation is to increase home output.

Next Steps

  • Import policy should be consistent, as this gives appropriate market signals ahead of time. Import tariffs are preferable to quotas, which result in a greater loss of welfare. This also necessitates more precise crop predictions using satellite remote sensing and GIS tools to predict crop year shortfalls and surpluses well in advance.
  • Furthermore, the CPI base year of 2011-12, which allocates roughly half of the weight to food items, needs to be reviewed and updated to reflect the population’s changing eating habits and lifestyle. Spending on non-food products has increased as the middle class has grown, and this needs to be better reflected in the CPI so that RBI can better target the non-volatile section (core inflation).

Other’s News

Wheat of Fair and Average Quality

  • In the ongoing rabi marketing season in Punjab, Haryana, and Chandigarh, the Centre lowered the Fair and Average Quality (FAQ) requirements for “shrivelled and broken grains” of wheat.
  • The Center has increased the permitted limit of “shrivelled and broken grains” of wheat in the FAQ from 6% to 18%. This decision will alleviate farmer misery and prevent wheat distress sales.
  • The standards to ensure the quality of the procured wheat are announced every year before procurement begins in this region in April.

The Storage and Research (S&R) division of the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs’ Department of Food & Public Distribution issues these specifications.

Wheat with up to 0.75 percent foreign matter, 2 percent damaged grain, 4% significantly damaged grain, 6% shrivelled and cracked grain, and 12 percent moisture was allowed for procurement this year.

Implementation – The specifications are applied during the procurement process by the Food Corporation of India (FCI), the central government’s procurement nodal agency.

To verify that quality criteria and parameters are met, the FCI conducts physical and chemical examinations on the crops during the procurement process, as well as on the stored crop.

Fair and average quality (FAQ) wheat, according to FCI, is wheat that meets all all-down requirements.

FAQ wheat is completely grown and has a lustrous sheen.

The grain is not black or streaked, and the primary variants are golden or pale yellow in colour.

It is perfectly dried and meets all nutritional requirements, which are checked in the lab if necessary.

If a layperson grabs a handful of wheat and notices that the grain is shining and attractive, the wheat most likely fits the FAQ.

Technology for Lithium-Sulphur Cells

  • A novel Lithium-Sulphur (Li-S) cell technology has been developed by engineers in the United States.
  • Li-S cell technology could lead the way for more efficient, long-lasting, and cost-effective batteries than the lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries currently in use.
  • In contrast to Li-ion batteries, Li-S batteries use sulphur instead of cobalt in the electrolyte (the liquid within the battery).
  • The carbonate electrolyte in Li-ion batteries is enabled by stabilising gamma sulphur at ambient temperature.

Sulphur is a very common element that is also quite inexpensive.

Cobalt, on the other hand, is uncommon and expensive, and it’s linked to unethical mining in places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

  • The negative electrode in a Li-S battery cell is metallic lithium, whereas the positive electrode is sulphur.
  • Li-S batteries have a higher theoretical energy density and can hold twice the charge of a standard Li-ion battery, which is one of their advantages.
  • Problems – When sulphur combines with lithium in Li-S batteries, numerous intermediaries called polysulphides form.
  • As the cell functions, these polysulphides dissolve in the electrolyte.
  • Each charging cycle of Li-S batteries leads in the loss of energy storage capacity.
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