UPSC Exam Preparation: Topic of the Day – Bio Terrorism threat to India and India’s preparedness
There had been several sporadic incidents of bioterrorism in past but the October 2001 use of anthrax letters in United States killing five people was the one that triggered a worldwide alarm. There are no confirmed incidents of bioterrorism attack in India yet. In 2001, the office of the Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra had received an envelope having anthrax culture. This was a wakeup call for the Indian security agencies and consequently several incidents were suspected to be acts of bioterrorism. Some of them are as follows:
- 1994, Pneumonic plague attack in Surat
- 1996, Dengue hemorrhagic fever attack in Delhi
- 1999, Anthrax attack in Midnapore
- 2001, the Mystery ‘encephalitis attack in Siliguri.
To strengthen the area of bio-defence, United States passed the ‘Bioterrorism Act of 2002’ but in India, there is no such dedicated law. The Bioterrorism Act of 2002 makes provision of an essential element of national preparedness against bioterrorism in United States and it focuses on safety of drugs, food and water from biological agents and toxins. India has so far, put efforts mainly via NDMA, NDRF and DRDO. Some DRDO labs are active in this area of research and have developed protective systems and equipment’s for protection of Indian troops against the nuclear, biological and chemical warfare. The efforts can be enumerated as follows:
- National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has taken several initiatives, has existing battalions of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) trained to deal with chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) threats.
- Specific surveillance systems that have the capacity to recognise patterns of non-specific threats have been installed.
- Disease Surveillance Project (IDSP), a decentralized and state-based surveillance program was formulated in 2004, which integrates the public sector, private sector, rural and urban health system, and has incorporation of communicable and non-communicable systems (unusual clinical syndromes may be included during public health emergencies).
There is a need for coordinated and concerted efforts of different government agencies viz. the intelligence agency, the army, the BSF, SSB, law enforcement machinery, health departments and civil administration etc. to meet the challenge of bioterrorism. The threat of bioterrorism places a heavy demand on India’s public health system which would need to mitigate and ameliorate the consequences of a bioterrorism attack. India lacks an effective public health system and that is why, any event of bioterrorism can create havoc in the country.
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