News & Editorial Analysis 17 February 2023
The Hindu News Analysis
1 – MGNREGA:
GS II Topic Government Policies and Interventions:
The wages of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) recipients should also be paid by the states in order to encourage state governments to take more initiative in the fight against corruption.
Concern has been voiced by academics and NREGA Sangarsh Morcha members regarding his Ministry’s most recent directive mandating Aadhaar-based wage payments. According to government data, 57% of the current workforce will be eliminated.
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), passed in 2005, guarantees 100 days of employment to adult members of rural families who are willing to perform unskilled manual labour associated with public operations at the legal minimum pay.
This Act also grants the SC/STs 150 days of employment during non-agricultural seasons.
The Ministry of Rural Development is in charge of supervising every aspect of its execution, working with the State Governments.
Women are only permitted to make up about one-third of the required workforce under this programme.
With this initiative, jobs will be spread out over a 5-kilometer radius. If the distance is greater than 5 kilometres, the government will pay an additional salary.
Within 15 days of receiving the application or the day the work is needed, the applicant will receive a paid job offer.
Within fifteen days of finishing the project, the applicants will get payment.
If a job is not offered within 15 days after submitting the application or from the date the job is sought, the candidate is entitled to unemployment benefits.
The Gram Sabha is the main venue for wage workers to voice their issues and request things.
The MGNREGA projects are also prioritised and approved by the Gram Sabha and Gram Panchayat.
The following elements are the primary emphasis of this strategy:
economic and social empowerment of women
Offering the beneficiaries “Green” and “excellent” work that takes into account farmers’ sensitivity to climate change and protects them from such threats.
Why is MGNREGA important?
MGNREGA is crucial if India is to address its current problems.
It boosts rural demand and supports the economic advancement of the rural populace.
It aims to close the gap between riches and poverty.
This Act aims to boost the purchasing power of the rural populace, especially for those who are below the poverty line, by providing them with primarily semi-skilled or unskilled labour.
Issues like rural poverty, farmer suicides, the rural employment crisis, etc. may be helped by this.
Also, the programme has the ability to put forward-thinking policies into action, such as improving the infrastructure in rural India and boosting agricultural output through labor-intensive, auxiliary projects related to water conservation, drought relief, flood control, etc.
This Act’s promotion of grassroots development, which is primarily carried out through Gram Panchayats, makes it even more crucial (GPs). Contractor participation is not permitted under this strategy in order to protect the workers from being exploited.
It stands out for having a worker-centric policy that prioritises accountability and transparency.
The Act might provide a solution to today’s problems, including water scarcity and climate change, if the government supports it.
In times of drought or other natural calamities, it is a demand-driven pay employment scheme that extends unskilled wage employment by 50 days.
According to Section 3(4) of the Act, States and the Center may use their own funds to provide more days than what is necessary.
2 – GST Council:
GS III Topic Indian Economy:
At its meeting on Saturday, the GST Council is reportedly planning to discuss the creation of appeal tribunals and other procedures to stop tax cheating in the pan masala and gutkha industries.
The conclusions of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) panel regarding online gambling and casinos may not be discussed at the GST Council meeting on February 18 that will also include her state equivalents and be chaired by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
What is the GST Council?
Background: The Goods and Services Tax regime was implemented after the Constitutional (122nd Amendment) Bill was ratified by both Houses of Parliament in 2016.
When it had been ratified by the state assembly of more than 15 Indian states, the President then granted his assent.
The federal government and the states work together through the GST Council.
The President formed it in accordance with Article 279A (1) of the updated Constitution.
The Union Minister of State (Finance) from the Center and the Union Finance Minister are members of the Council (chairperson).
Each state has the right to suggest a minister in charge of finances, taxes, or any other minister for membership.
Functions: The Council is tasked with “providing recommendations to the Union and the States on significant GST-related matters, such as the GST-eligible products and services and model GST Laws,” as stated in Article 279 of the Constitution.
Additionally, it establishes the various GST rate slabs.
For instance, a panel of ministers’ interim report suggested taxing casinos, online gambling, and horse racing with a 28% GST.
Recent Developments: This is the first meeting following the Supreme Court’s decision in May 2022 declaring that the GST Council’s recommendations are not binding precedent.
The court asserts that Article 246A of the Constitution gives the federal government and state legislatures “simultaneous” authority to pass laws managing the GST, and that the council’s recommendations “are the outcome of a joint discourse comprising the Union and States.”
Because they believe states can be more accommodating in embracing the proposals as they are suited for them, some states, including Kerala and Tamil Nadu, commended this.
3 – Organ Transplant rules in India
GS II Topic Government Policies and Interventions:
The limitation preventing patients older than 65 from obtaining cadaver organ transplants has been removed, according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, signalling a dramatic shift in the country’s organ donation guidelines.
The ceiling will be removed, as decided by the administration. According to reputable sources in the Health Ministry, persons over 65 who need an organ donation will also be qualified to receive one.
Organ transplantation is a medical procedure in which a damaged or missing organ is replaced by removing an organ from one body and implanting it in the recipient’s body.
The donor and recipient may both be present at the same location, or the organs may be transported from the donor site to another location.
Organs and/or tissues that are transplanted into the body of the same person are referred to as autografts.
Recent transplants between two individuals of the same species are called allografts.
The heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas, intestine, thymus, and uterus have all had successful organ transplants.
The cornea, skin, heart valves, nerves, and veins are examples of tissues (both of which are referred to as musculoskeletal grafts).
The kidneys, liver, and heart are the three organs that are transplanted the most frequently worldwide.
The most frequently transplanted tissues are musculoskeletal and corneal grafts, which outweigh organ transplants by a factor of more than ten.
National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organization:
The Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994 was established in 1994. 25 years afterwards. The establishment of NOTTO was permitted under the Transplantation of Human Organs (Amendment) Act of 2011.
A national organisation called NOTTO has been founded by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
The National Human Organ and Tissue Removal and Storage Network was founded in Delhi with the purpose of obtaining, allocating, and distributing organs and tissues.
The National Biomaterial Center (National Tissue Bank) was formed to fill the gap between “Demand” and “Supply” and to “Quality Assurance” in the accessibility of various tissues.
In order to gather information on surgeries and their outcomes at the national level, the Liver Transplantation Society of India established India’s first voluntary liver transplant registry.
While there are approximately 2000 liver transplants performed in India each year, it does not have its own statistics. The doctor thus consults the registers in the US and the UK. This will be addressed by the change.
Under NOTTO, only blood relations and intimate family members are permitted to donate organs; otherwise, registration is necessary, and receivers are selected from a waiting list and organ availability (tissues, lungs, kidney, heart).
National Organ Transplant Programme:
As a part of the National Organ Transplant Programme (NOTP), a National Level Tissue Bank (Biomaterial Center) has been established at the National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organization (NOTTO), New Delhi, for the storage of tissues.
Also, a clause was added to the NOTP to allow for the provision of financial support to the States for the development of Bio-material Centers.
The Regional Bio-material Center has now been established by the Regional Organ and Tissue Transplant Organization (ROTTO) in Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
The States of Maharashtra and Bihar have also been given funding to establish Bio-material Centers under the NOTP.
The Government of India is carrying out the National Organ Transplant Programme in order to promote organ donation and transplantation in all States and Union Territories (UTs), including Karnataka (NOTP).
The provisions of the programme include:
the creation of state, regional, and national biomaterial centres; the formation of SOTTOs (State Organ and Tissue Transplant Organizations) in each State and UT.
Financial support for the development of new Organ Transplant/Retrieval Facilities and the renovation of existing Organ Transplant/Retrieval Facilities.
Transplantation experts get training, including doctors, surgeons, coordinators of transplants, etc.
Medical schools and trauma centres can appoint Transplant Coordinators with funding.
Immunosuppressive drugs for those who are under the poverty line (BPL).
This project has resulted in the establishment of five Regional Organ and Tissue Transplant Organizations (ROTTOs), fourteen SOTTOs, and a National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organization (NOTTO) at the highest level.
Moreover, funds have been made available to the States of Bihar and Maharashtra for the establishment of a Regional Bio-material Center at Tamil Nadu’s ROTTO.
The “National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organization (NOTTO),” “Regional Organ and Tissue Transplant Organizations (ROTTOs),” and “State Organ and Tissue Transplant Organizations” all provide the general public with information about organ donation (SOTTOs).
Both a website, www.notto.gov.in, and a toll-free helpline, 1800114770, are now operating.
Several initiatives to raise awareness are periodically carried out. These include, among other things, lectures, talks, debates, sporting activities, participation in marathons, nukkadnatak, and celebrations of Indian Organ Donation Day.
Social media is also being used to inform the public about organ donation.
4 – Cheetah Conservation:
GS III Topic Environmental Conservation:
On Saturday, twelve cheetahs will be sent from South Africa to India, three years after the Indian government first suggested the idea.
The cheetahs were supposed to arrive in India by the middle of 2022, but preparations were put off since the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries took longer than expected. The animals are still being confined at a reserve in the province of Limpopo as a result.
The fastest land mammal in the world, the cheetah, which went extinct in India in 1952, will find a new home in the Kuno-Palpur National Park (KNP). African cheetahs are being transported between India and Africa as part of an intercontinental translocation programme (mainly from South Africa and Namibia).
The contentious proposal to move cheetahs to India, first from Iran and later from Africa, has taken years to prepare. Indian conservationists are sceptical about the proposal’s chances of success and are concerned that it will take attention away from the need to relocate other critically endangered species, such the Asiatic lion.
What is the rationale behind India’s decision to reintroduce the cheetah?
The biological objectives include restoring the cheetah’s ecosystem function role in representative areas of its former range and assisting in the conservation of the cheetah species globally.
India will be the only country with all five species of great cats—the tiger, lion, leopard, snow leopard, and cheetah—with the reintroduction of the cheetah.
Enhancing Choices for a Living: Cheetah reintroduction will raise living standards for the locals in and around the regions where the species is likely to be introduced by raising revenue from ecotourism and related activities.
Top predators are regarded as the umbrella species for the food chain since they have control over all food chain levels, which helps to maintain the food chain.
The charismatic cheetah can serve as a flagship and umbrella species to draw money for restoring the balance of the food web and open forest environments.
Climate Change Mitigation: By regenerating ecosystems in cheetah conservation areas, India will be better able to sequester carbon and contribute to global efforts to combat climate change.
What Caused the India Cheetahs’ Defeat?
Before the Common Era, there is historical evidence of Indian cheetahs. There are records of cheetah captures dating back to the 1550s.
Reduced levels of genetic variation brought on by a previous genetic bottleneck, which resulted in high infant mortality in the wild and a decreased potential for reproduction in captivity, was one of the primary reasons of extinction.
Cheetahs (both male and female) are regularly and widely captured in the wild throughout a prolonged period of sport hunting.
The Mughals and other Deccan kings started documenting its contacts with people in great detail in the 16th century.
Killings for reward: By offering a reward for the species’ extinction in 1871, the British made conditions worse for the animal.
The last stages of its extinction occurred during British colonial rule.
According to reports, the last cheetahs were shot in India in 1947, and the species was finally declared extinct in 1952.
What Issues Are Included in the Translocation of Cheetahs in India?
A important question is whether a cheetah that is kept in a cage and fed game will be able to hunt in the wild by itself.
For instance, Sundari the tigress, who after a failed attempt to relocate her to Satkosia in Odisha, was eventually kept prisoner in Bhopal Zoo for the rest of her life.
Adaptability: Reintroduced species are more vulnerable to the effects of drift, selection, and gene flow evolutionary processes because of their tiny size and the climatic and ecological differences between their new home and their original environment.
African cheetahs need wide, open spaces to run. There are less opportunities for such unrestrained roaming in Indian parks because they are frequently much smaller than those in Africa.
Research in Africa has revealed that male cheetahs mate when females pass through their limited territories, which results in breeding issues. Female cheetahs, on the other hand, journey far and alone.
Since it has never occurred anywhere, there is no precedent to infer that cheetahs, lions, tigers, and leopards could ever coexist peacefully.
Similar worries exist for Kuno because studies have revealed that leopards have killed cheetahs as prey in Africa. Kuno has about 50 leopards in and around the central area where cheetahs will be housed.
Concerns with rehabilitation To adequately protect the cheetah habitat, it will be required to relocate a number of communities, which will surely have an impact on the locals and cause disturbance and migration.
What Additional Reintroduction Plans Do You Know About?
The Bisalpur Rewilding Project for 2018: The project brought back some 150 of the endangered Indian antelope, along with a variety of other animals and plants in and around the Jodhpur area.
Indian bison, or gaur: A safari firm with roots in Africa spearheaded the relocation of 19 gaur at Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh.
In ten years, the gaur herd grew to about 70 animals.
American bison: Due to overzealous hunting and slaughter for the fur trade, there were only 750 American bison surviving in the wild in the 1890s.
Because to population management, reintroduction plans, and conservation efforts, the population has grown to over 350,000.
Grey Wolves: The reintroduction of grey wolves to Yellowstone more than 21 years ago had a key role in halting the ecosystem’s degradation in the American national park.
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The Hindu Editorial Analysis
A Manifesto For Tackling The Silent Pandemic Of AMR:
As a vulnerable country and the current G-20 president, India is vital in ensuring that AMR remains high on the global health agenda.
The exceedingly hazardous but undetected antimicrobial resistance (AMR) pandemic is, tragically, here to stay, while the COVID-19 pandemic is still in its acute phase.
Most countries acknowledged the COVID-19 threat as apparent and present in 2020, which compelled governments—including India’s—to take prompt and accurate action. To combat the rapidly rising AMR rates, a swift, multi-sectoral, international, and national response is also required.
Antimicrobial resistance, or AMR:
According to the World Health Organization, AMR is among the top 10 health risks (WHO).
Antimicrobial drugs used to treat infections can become resistant to all microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, etc.).
Over time, a microorganism might evolve and cease responding to treatment, making infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of disease spread, serious illness, and death.
One issue with AMR is that:
Medical personnel now face a challenge from disease-causing microbes that have evolved treatment resistance, despite the fact that new pharmaceuticals have revolutionised human healthcare in recent years. The global public health response is in peril because to the growing abuse and overuse of antibiotics in both humans and animals.
Microbial resistance to medicines has made it more difficult to treat infections like pneumonia, tuberculosis (TB), blood poisoning (septicemia), and many food-borne illnesses.
AMR extends hospital stays, results in medical problems, and delays recovery, all of which have a significant financial impact on the patient’s health.
For patients having invasive surgeries and treatments like chemotherapy, it raises the risk. People regularly endure difficult medical procedures but succumb to incurable infections.
AMR puts a strain on a country’s healthcare infrastructure and raises the burden of communicable diseases. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) reported in 2022 that the prevalence of broad-spectrum antibiotic resistance is increasing by 5% to 10% annually.
India and the Muscat Conference:
The Muscat Manifesto acknowledged the need to hasten political commitments to One Health action in order to stop the development of AMR.
It also highlighted the need to deal with the effects of AMR on environmental health, food security, economic growth, and human and animal health.
The primary health objectives of the conference were to reduce the total amount of antimicrobials used in the agri-food system by at least 30% to 50% by 2030, eliminate the use of antimicrobials that are medically important for human health in animals and food production by 2030, and ensure that by 2030 at least 60% of all antibiotics consumed by humans come from the WHO “Access” group of antibiotics.
India has promised to increase surveillance and assist the development of novel medications. It also aims to enhance private sector participation and data reporting to the WHO Global Antibiotic Resistance and Use Surveillance System (GLASS) and other standard systems.
High degrees of resistance:
WHO has been paying increasing attention to the alarmingly high incidence of antibiotic resistance among patients globally.
The global TB epidemic has been significantly harmed by multidrug resistance; patients now have a 60% probability of recovery.
The Muscat Manifesto’s solution to the AMR problem appears to be these three revolutionary objectives. The manifesto urges governments to uphold the One Health tenet while prioritising their national action plans for AMR.
Comparing policy to practise:
The National Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance emphasised the success of government initiatives for hand hygiene and sanitation programmes, including Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Kayakalp, and Swachh Swasth Sarvatra (2017–21).
Also, the government has made an effort to increase public awareness of healthier and better ways to produce food, notably in the animal food industry.
The National Health Policy of 2017 contains explicit instructions on how to utilise antibiotics, in addition to regulating their use as over-the-counter medications and banning or restricting their use for enhancing animal growth.
At the many G-20 health summits that will take place through 2023, India has the opportunity to ensure that all aspects of AMR are discussed and that governments commit to progress.
Some crucial areas for action include the following: Phenotypic and genotypic surveillance of priority pathogens and data sharing, including through the WHO’s GLASS platform; regulatory and policy action to stop the use of antibiotics essential for human health in animals; prohibition of the use of antibiotics to promote animal growth; increased government investment in research and innovation for new antibiotics; and investigation of the use of vaccines to prevent certain infections caused by AMR organisms in humans.
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The Indian Express Editorial Analysis
The Price Pinch:
The ability to control inflation within the acceptable range will be crucial for India’s economy to recover from the epidemic and accompanying global disruptions.
Prior to reaching its subsequent top in January, it softened for three straight months. The RBI has been acting as an inflation-targeting central bank in recent months by raising interest rates in an effort to keep inflation under control. But the fight to lower inflation is undoubtedly not over.
The most recent inflation statistics also raise concerns about the RBI’s level of effort.
Targeted inflation’s bandwidth and location:
The inflation targeting framework requires the RBI to attain a 4% CPI (consumer price index) inflation objective.
From March 2020 to September 2021, the pandemic period, CPI inflation was 5.9% on average.
This exceeded the 4% point objective, but it was still within the 2-6% range for inflation that was desired. Yet, the inflation outlook has been worse since then.
The RBI’s targeted range was surpassed by the CPI inflation rate for 10 consecutive months in 2022, which meant that the goal was missed for three consecutive quarters.
The end of the year saw a beginning of the inflation slowing. In December 2022, the CPI inflation rate dropped to 5.7%.
Many were led to think that the inflation peak had passed and that inflation was now heading in the direction of the predetermined aim.
The price of vegetables fell dramatically in November and December 2022, which contributed significantly to the reduction of inflation.
When vegetables were removed, the CPI’s inflation rate was really higher than 7%.
It is now obvious that the optimism was misplaced. The CPI inflation rate for January 2023 was 6.5%, which is once again higher above the RBI’s planned inflation range.
The following are the main reasons why inflation has risen over target levels:
Firstly, as food accounts for 46% of the CPI basket as a whole, an increase in food inflation from almost 4% in December 2022 to almost 6% in January 2023 has had a major influence on total inflation.
One meal that has shown to be extremely resilient is cereal inflation. From May through December 2022, the price of cereal increased by 14% every year instead of the previous 5%.
In January 2023, this increased to 16%. Within the cereal group, wheat inflation has been gradually increasing. Between May and December of 2022, the price of wheat increased from 9% to 22%. By January 2023 rolled around, it had increased to 25%.
Due to shortages, the price of wheat has increased significantly. According to data from the Food Corporation of India, stocks in government warehouses declined from 33 million tonnes in January 2022 to 17 million tonnes in January 2023. The government just approved the release of three million tonnes onto the open market.
The second factor is an increase in core (non-food, non-fuel) inflation, which reached 6.2 percent in January.
The core inflation rate, which has been at 6% for almost three years, is consistent with this. A persistently high core inflation indicates that pricing pressures have entangled the system.
The ongoing conversion of high input costs into final product prices helps to explain some of this.
The fact that this is happening despite WPI inflation, which gauges input costs, declining from a peak of 16% in May 2022 to less than 5% in January 2023, is interesting.
This shows that because margins are being squeezed and profitability is declining, businesses are spreading out the pass-through over a longer time period. As a result, the course of core inflation is unpredictable.
Outside factors are also significant, to sum up. In prosperous countries, the inflation rate is still high (6.4 per cent in the US; 8.5 per cent in the EU; 10.5 per cent in the UK).
A portion of India’s high inflation is brought in through commerce in goods and services.
Furthermore, higher commodity prices could add new pressure to India’s inflation as China liberalises its economy more after nearly three years of zero-Covid restrictions.
What actions have policymakers made to address inflationary concerns? (Fiscal and monetary policy):
The government has helped by announcing a cautious Union budget for 2023–2024.
It has prioritised the very important task of budgetary consolidation and postponed implementing populist measures that may have boosted demand and, as a result, inflation.
The RBI has been carrying out its obligations. It increased the policy repo rate from a pandemic low of 4% to 6.5% in just 10 months.
It has also adopted a more hawkish attitude, as seen by its most recent monetary policy statement. In contrast to last year, when, despite rising inflation, the monetary policy statements lacked any sense of the future, the RBI emphasised the need to “stay attentive on inflation” in its February 2023 statement, suggesting that the cycle of monetary tightening is sustained in order to control inflation.
After failing to meet the inflation target for three consecutive quarters, the RBI was obligated to provide the government with a report outlining a strategy for lowering inflation in 2022.
Law does not force the government or the RBI to make the contents of this report public. The report’s publication, which focuses primarily on the corrective actions the RBI intends to take, may help to stabilise inflation expectations and facilitate the central bank’s own efforts to fight inflation. This is due to the fact that it is difficult to manage inflation and that it is unlikely that the 4% objective will be attained next year either.
Since inflation disproportionately impacts the poor by lowering their purchasing power, it is essential to create a trustworthy glide path to drop inflation to the desired level.
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