In the context of the hijab controversy, the Karnataka High Court recently ruled in favour of the State’s circular requiring students in educational institutions to wear only prescribed uniforms.
The decision effectively upheld the denial of entry to hijab-wearing students.
The court rejected an argument based on the principle of’reasonable accommodation’ in favour of allowing Muslim girls to wear head scarves.
About: ‘Reasonable accommodation’ is a principle that promotes equality, allows positive rights to be granted, and prevents discrimination based on disability, health condition, or personal belief.
Its primary application is in the disability rights sector.
It expresses the positive obligation of the state and private parties to provide additional assistance to people with disabilities in order to facilitate their full and effective participation in society.
The constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights to equality (Article 14), the six freedoms (Article 19), and the right to life (Article 21) will ring hollow for a person with a disability if they are not given this additional support that helps make these rights real and meaningful for them.
Article 2 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) states that it is necessary and appropriate to make modifications and adjustments that do not impose a disproportionate or undue burden on persons with disabilities in order to ensure their enjoyment or exercise of all human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis with others.
The ILO published a practical guide on promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace in 2016.
Workers with disabilities, workers living with HIV and AIDS, pregnant workers and those with family responsibilities, and workers who hold a particular religion or belief are all examples of workers who may require workplace accommodations.
At work, these workers face various types of barriers. These can result in either job loss or a lack of access to jobs.
The provision of reasonable accommodation is critical in overcoming these barriers and thus contributing to greater workplace equality, diversity, and inclusion.
Accommodations include a modified working environment, shortened or staggered working hours, additional support from supervisory staff, and reduced work commitments.
In India, the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, defines’reasonable accommodation’ as “necessary and appropriate modification and adjustments, without imposing a disproportionate or undue burden in a particular case, to ensure that persons with disabilities enjoy or exercise rights equally with others.”
Section 2(h) includes ‘denial of reasonable accommodation’ in its definition of ‘discrimination.’
Jeeja Ghosh et al. v. Union of India et al. (2016): The Supreme Court ruled that equality entails not only preventing discrimination but also remedying discrimination against groups that face systematic discrimination in society.
In practise, this entails accepting the concepts of positive rights, affirmative action, and reasonable accommodation.”
Vikash Kumar v. UPSC (2021): The court ruled that benchmark disability, defined as a disability of 40% or more, is only related to special accommodations for the disabled in employment, but it does not have to be a restriction for other types of accommodation.
It also stated that failure to make reasonable accommodations constitutes discrimination.
Officials from the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and other government agencies have begun finalising various provisions of a draught Bill for a new national public health law.
The proposed National Public Health Act has been in the works since 2017. If passed, it will replace the 125-year-old Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897.
The draught Public Health (Prevention, Control, and Management of Epidemics, Bioterrorism, and Disasters) Act, 2017, was published in 2017.
It was announced in September 2020 that the government would draught a national public health law (National Public Health Bill).
Architecture of a Four-tiered Health Administration:
The draught Bill envisions a four-tiered health administration structure with “multisectoral” national, state, district, and block-level public health authorities with “well defined” powers and functions to deal with “public health emergencies.”
It is proposed that it be led by the Union Health Ministry and chaired by state health ministers.
The next tier will be led by District Collectors, and block units will be led by Block Medical Officers or Medical Superintendents.
These authorities will have the authority to take preventive measures against noncommunicable diseases and emerging infectious diseases.
Cadres for Public Health: The proposed law also includes provisions for the formation of public health cadres at the national and state levels.
The draught Bill defines various measures for Covid management, such as isolation, quarantine, and lockdown, which have been widely used by the Centre and states.
A lockdown is defined as “restriction with certain conditions or complete prohibition of running any form of transport” on roads or inland waterways.
A lockdown is defined as “restrictions” on the movement or gathering of people in any location, public or private.
It also includes “forbidding or restricting” the operation of factories, plants, mines, or construction sites, as well as offices, educational institutions, or market places.
Situations in which a “public health emergency” can be declared: The draught specifies several scenarios in which a “public health emergency” can be declared. They include bioterrorism, the appearance of a novel or previously controlled or eradicated infectious agent or biological toxin, natural disasters, chemical attacks or accidental chemical release, and nuclear attacks or accidents.
Increased Health Expenditure: According to the recently released National Health Accounts (NHA) report for 2017-18, the government increased health spending, resulting in a drop in Out-Of-Pocket Expenditure (OOPE) to 48.8 percent in 2017-18 from 64.2 percent in 2013-14.
It demonstrates that total public spending on health as a percentage of GDP has risen to a historic high of 1.35 percent of GDP, breaking through the 1%-1.2 percent mark of GDP.
Primary Health Care’s Share: The share of primary health care in current government health expenditure has increased from 51.1 percent in 2013-14 to 54.7 percent in 2017-18.
More than 80% of current government health expenditure is spent on primary and secondary care.
Social Security Expenditure on Health: The share of social security expenditure on health has increased, which includes the social health insurance programme, government-financed health insurance schemes, and medical reimbursements to government employees.
Healthcare Insurance Issues: According to a recently released NITI Aayog report, at least 30 percent of the population, or 40 crore individuals (referred to as the missing middle in this report), do not have any financial protection for health.
Furthermore, the high 18 percent GST on insurance premiums discourages people from purchasing health insurance.
Involvement of the Private Sector: The primary healthcare sector does not generate profits, but rather provides more basic level healthcare, which is why the burden of primary health care falls primarily on governments around the world; it is more in the public domain rather than the private domain.
Lack of Original Molecular Development: India is the world’s pharmacy because its drug manufacturing is quite robust. However, due to a lack of funding, there is no or very little original molecular development, which is required as a component in drug manufacturing.
The government must provide impetus in this area so that India’s production can be updated to include frontier medicines as well as generic medicines.
More government funding for health is needed in India’s health system. When it comes to urban local bodies, however, this must be a combination of incremental financial allocations supplemented by elected representatives demonstrating health leadership.
It also necessitates the coordination of multiple agencies, increased citizen engagement in health, the establishment of accountability mechanisms, and the oversight of the process by a multidisciplinary group of technical and health experts.
To reduce costs beyond a few islands of excellence, such as the AIIMS, investments in other medical colleges should be encouraged in order to potentially reduce costs while increasing health-care quality.
Incentivizing R&D (Research and Development) through additional tax breaks to encourage greater investment in new drug development and lowering GST.
The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) may allow a price increase of more than 10% in drugs and devices on the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM).
The rise in the Wholesale Price Index is driving the increase, which is expected to affect nearly 800 drugs and devices (WPI).
The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) was established by the Government of India in 1997 as an attached office of the Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP), Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers as an independent regulator for drug pricing and to ensure the availability and accessibility of medicines at affordable prices.
Under the Drugs (Prices Control) Order, 1995-2013, it was created to fix/revise prices of controlled bulk drugs and formulations, as well as to enforce price and availability of medicines in the country (DPCO).
A bulk drug, also known as an Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API), is the chemical molecule in a medicine that provides the product with its claimed therapeutic effect.
In accordance with the powers delegated to it, to implement and enforce the provisions of the Drugs (Prices Control) Order.
To handle any legal issues that arise as a result of the NPPA’s decisions.
To keep track of drug availability, identify shortages, and take corrective action.
To collect/maintain data on production, exports and imports, market share of individual companies, profitability of companies, and so on, for bulk drugs and formulations, and to conduct and/or sponsor relevant studies on drug/ pharmaceutical pricing.
The prices of all medicines covered by the NLEM are regulated. The NLEM contains a list of drugs used to treat fever, infection, heart disease, hypertension, anaemia, and other conditions, as well as commonly used medications such as paracetamol and azithromycin.
The Health Ministry compiles a list of drugs eligible for price regulation, which is then added to Schedule 1 of the DPCO by the Department of Pharmaceuticals.
The list will be vetted by the Standing Committee on Affordable Medicines and Health Products (SCAMHP), which will advise the drug price regulator, the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA). The NPPA then sets the prices for the drugs on this Schedule.
According to the Drugs (Prices) Control Order 2013, scheduled drugs, which account for approximately 15% of the pharma market, are allowed an increase by the government based on the WPI (Wholesale Price Index), while the remaining 85% are allowed an automatic increase of 10% every year.
The annual change in the prices of scheduled drugs is tightly controlled and rarely exceeds 5%.
The Drugs and Cosmetics Act of 1940 classifies drugs into schedules and establishes regulations for their storage, display, sale, dispensing, levelling, and prescribing, among other things.
Instead of using the WPI, the pharma lobby is now requesting at least a 10% increase for scheduled drugs.
Eugene Parker, an astrophysicist from the United States who proposed the existence of solar wind, has died.
Dr. Parker is a pioneer in the field of heliophysics, which is concerned with the study of the sun and other stars.
He has made contributions to science and our understanding of how the universe works.
He is best known for proposing the existence of solar wind, a supersonic flow of particles off the sun’s surface, in 1958.
In 1962, NASA’s Mariner II spacecraft mission to Venus confirmed his theory and the effect of solar wind on the solar system, including occasional disruptions of Earth’s communications systems.
He was the first person to see the launch of a spacecraft bearing his name, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, in 2018.
Following Ukraine’s request for additional military assistance to defend the country against Russia’s invasion, the US has sent kamikaze drones as part of a massive military aid package.
There are drones that fire missiles and those that are missiles themselves.
The Kamikaze are also known as Killer or Suicide drones.
These are small unmanned aircraft loaded with explosives that can be flown directly at a tank or troops and explode when they hit the target.
According to the manufacturer, AeroVironment, the single-use weapons are less expensive than most US drones and come in two sizes.
The Switchblade 300 has a flight time of up to 15 minutes and is designed to be carried in a backpack, assisting small infantry units.
The Switchblade 600 has a flight time of up to 40 minutes and is classified as a “loitering missile” capable of targeting armoured vehicles.
The Switchblade can be carried in a backpack into battle and fly up to 7 miles to hit a target.
They’re called Switchblade because their blade-like wings spring out when they take off. It’s also known as a flying shotgun.
Significance – Because it has a feature that allows the operator to adjust the blast radius, it can kill the driver but not the passenger of a vehicle.
In the event of a mistake or a risk to civilians, the Switchblade can be “waved off” up to 2 seconds before impact.
It also has cameras that show a target seconds before it collides with it.
Drones can fly past traditional defences to reach their targets and cost a fraction of what their larger counterparts do.
The small lethal drones are difficult to detect on radar, and they can even be programmed to hit targets without the need for human intervention, using facial recognition.
Despite the fact that the Kamikaze is the most advanced form of this type of drone, Russia, China, Israel, Iran, and Turkey all have some version of it.