Comprehensive News Analysis - 06 March 2016

Table of Contents:

A. GS1 Related:
B. GS2 Related:

1. The antibiotic red line of control

2. Karzai for including India in Afghan talks

3. Taliban reject peace talks with govt.

4. Indian envoy takes on Sri Lankan Opposition over economy pact

5. China targets 6.5-7 per cent growth to fuel economic transition

C GS3 Related:

1. EPF tax proposal likely to be axed as Centre has a rethink

2. Pilot phase of eBiz portal may be completed by the year-end

Others:

3. ‘Govt bank write-off: Expert group to clean up, strengthen banks’: The Indian Express

D. GS4 Related:
D.Important Editorials: A Quick Glance
E. Concepts-in-News: Related Concepts to Revise/Learn
F. Practice Questions
G. Archive

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Useful News Articles

A. GS1 Related

— Nothing here today, folks! —

 

B. GS2 Related

1. The antibiotic red line of control

Topic: Social Justice

Category: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health

Location: The Hindu, Page 10

antibio_jpg_2763713e

Key Points:

  • A much needed public awareness campaign to highlight the dangers of misuse and irrational use of antibioticswas recently launched by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
  • This campaign, called ‘Medicines with the Red Line’, comes at a time when the consumption of antibiotics in India has increased sharply while the effectiveness of these drugs to treat bacterial infections has been steadily declining.
  • High disease burden, rising income, cheap, unregulated sales of antibiotics and poor public health infrastructure are some of the reasons for the sharp increase in antibiotic use.
  • A report (August 2014) in the journalThe Lancet Infectious Diseases, said that in 2010, India consumed 13 billion units of antibiotics, the highest in the world. Between 2005 and 2009, consumption shot up by 40 per cent.

A case of contradictions

  • The impact of unregulated usage is already showing- between 2008 and 2013,colibacteria resistant to third-generation cephalosporins has increased.
  • The consequences of increased prevalence of antimicrobial resistance are best illustrated in the case of neonatal sepsis. On average 57,000 neonates die each year in India- the highest in the world.
  • But, the irony is that the lack of access or delayed access to effective antibiotics is causing more deaths in India than from drug-resistant bacteria. This is best revealed in the case of pneumonia in children under five years of age.
  • One way to reduce the dependence on antibiotics, particularly in the case of pneumonia, is by increasing the coverage of immunisation, which is currently hovering around 72 per cent for DTP (diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis).
  • So like many other developing countries, India has to turn the spotlight on ensuring sustainable access even while maintaining sustainable effectiveness of all antibiotics. The only way to achieve this twin objective is by ensuring that all stakeholders — government, patients, veterinarians, doctors, pharmacists, pharmaceutical companies and health-care facilities — play their respective roles more responsibly.
  • First, people should be made aware that stopping antibiotics midway, missing doses, taking suboptimal dosages, or consuming antibiotics for cold and other viral infections, to name a few, makes them resistant to antibiotics; when ill the next time, their only recourse will be more expensive drugs or probably nothing at all. This is best exemplified in the case of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis that requires longer period of treatment using very toxic drugs that are more expensive.

Steps to be taken by the Government

  • Top priority should be to crack down on drug companies manufacturing irrational fixed-dose combination drugs. “A recent study reported fixed dose combinations and loose antimicrobials for tuberculosis. Loose antimicrobials come without packaging and do not mention the name of the drug, its manufacturer, the date of manufacture, or the date of expiry,” notes thePLOS Medicine
  • The government should also urgently regulate drug companies discharging antimicrobial waste into the environment and regulate the use of antibiotics in animal feed to combat antibiotic resistance and obtain healthier animal products — misuse of antibiotics in food animals is linked to the antibiotic resistance problems we face today.
  • Better sanitation and effective infection control measures in health-care settings will also drastically cut the spread of drug-resistant strains.
  • The collusion of drug companies and chemists is also apparent in the rampant over-the-counter (OTC) sale of antibiotics, particularly carbapenems (that is among the highest in the world), even for ailments where they are not indicative.
  • The introduction of Schedule H1 category from March 2014 to prevent the sale of 24 third- and fourth-generation antibiotics without prescription is a step in the right direction. Licences of 213 retail pharmacies have been cancelled for non-compliance.
  • But restricting OTC sales of antibiotics, particularly the commonly used ones, is a double-edged sword. Any intervention to limit access by enforcing prescription-only laws unwittingly cuts off a vast majority of the population, particularly in the rural areas, that lacks access to doctors.

 

2. Karzai for including India in Afghan talks

Topic: International Relations

Category: India and its neighborhood- relations

Location: The Hindu, Page 13

TH06_HAMID_KARZAI__2763963f

Key Points:

  • India, Iran and Russia should be included in the talks with the Taliban, says former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai.
  • He also said that the current talks among the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) were Afghanistan’s “only hope for peace”- this is despite the fact that the talks were being held in Pakistan.
  • The QCG talks include representatives from the U.S., China, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Mr. Karzai’s comments came as there was uncertainty in Islamabad over when the next round of QCG talks would be scheduled.
  • The Taliban however have said that it would not attend the talks until all the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) forces had left the country.
  • Afghan analysts have also been worried that the presence of the U.S. and China in the QCG would push President Ghani to accept more and more concessions toward the Taliban.
  • India has stayed disengaged from the process, saying that it would support any initiative that is “Afghan-owned and Afghan-led”.

 

3. Taliban reject peace talks with govt.

Topic: International Relations

Category: India and its neighborhood- relations

Location: The Hindu, Page 14

Key Points:

  • The Taliban refused to hold direct peace talks with the Afghan government, dealing a blow to international efforts to revive long-stalled negotiations.
  • These negotiations were aimed at ending the deadly 14-year insurgency.
  • This position adopted by the Taliban, follows its string of military victories after NATO formally ended its combat operations more than a year ago.
  • In recent months the Taliban briefly captured the northern city of Kunduz, the first urban centre to fall to the insurgents, and have seized territory in the opium-growing southern province of Helmand
  • Observers say the intensifying insurgency highlights a push by the militants to seize more territory in an attempt to wrangle greater concessions if and when the talks resume.

 

4. Indian envoy takes on Sri Lankan Opposition over economy pact

Topic: International Relations

Category: India and its neighborhood- relations

Location: The Hindu, Page 14

Envoy-Rajapaksa_2763968g

Key Points:

  • India’s High Commissioner Y.K. Sinha has taken on former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Joint Opposition, an informal coalition of pro-Rajapaksa parties and groups, over the proposed Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) between India and Sri Lanka.
  • It was Mr. Rajapaksa’s government that held negotiations with India over the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), which had included “trade in services.”
  • Mr Sinha’s response was in the context of views expressed in certain quarters that the proposed ETCA would deprive job opportunities for Sri Lankans in a host of fields including information technology and the Free Trade Agreement, effective since March 2000, had not been beneficial to Sri Lanka.

Mr Sinha’s observations

  • Mr Sinha termed “absurd” the argument that the 16-year-old FTA had not been beneficial to Sri Lanka.
  • He said that in 1999, the value of Sri Lankan exports to India was $49 million and this went up to $645 million in 2015.
  • Noting that there had not been much increase in the value of Sri Lankan exports since 2005, he raised the question whether this was due to “limited” base of the exports. He added that that the regulatory framework in India was “non-discriminatory.”

 

5. China targets 6.5-7 per cent growth to fuel economic transition

Topic: International Relations

Category: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests

Location: The Hindu, Page 15

TH06_CHINA-ECONOMY_2763679f

Key Points:

  • China is targeting growth of about 6.5-7 per cent this year, in tune with an effort to transition from a low-end manufacturing and exports nation to a self-sustaining economy based on innovation and consumption.
  • Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang said Beijing was taking measures to avoid falling into a “middle income” trap. The term refers to the inability of many countries, starting from a low base, to transition to developed status after experiencing years of high economic growth.
  • Fiscal deficit has been calibrated to 3 per cent of the GDP this year, up from last year’s 2.3 per cent of the GDP
  • The fiscal stimulus is expected to focus on tax breaks for small businesses, especially in the fast-growing services sector, seen among the major drivers of the restructured “new normal” economy. Out of a total workforce of over 900 million, more than 100 million—the core of an innovation-based economy– have received higher education or are professionally trained. “This is our greatest resource and strength,” Mr. Li said.
  • China is now focusing on electric cars, deep space exploration, aero-engines, robotics and nuclear power, and the services industry, such as healthcare to restructure its economy. But significant amount of capital would also be invested in new roads, especially in the less developed southern provinces, and high speed railways. The Chinese Premier said that “zombie enterprises,” or inefficient units, especially in the coal, steel and heavy industry sectors are likely to be axed, in tune with an emphasis on mergers and consolidation of state-owned enterprises.

 

C. GS3 Related

1. EPF tax proposal likely to be axed as Centre has a rethink

Topic: Indian Economy

Category: Government Budgeting

Location: The Hindu, Page 01

EPF-graphic-revise_2763757f

Key Points:

  • All options on the controversial budget proposal to tax EPF savings, including a complete rollback, are on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s table and a decision is expected at the highest level in the government soon.
  • The Labour Ministry has argued that taxing EPF returns announced annually would lead to accounting problems and deprive members of the compounding effect of long-term savings.
  • While it may be possible to maintain multiple sets of accounts for each member to distinguish the interest income from the principal, the idea runs counter to Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian’s recommendations in the Economic Survey for 2015-16.
  • The Survey has mooted a “phased move” to an EET method of taxation of savings, wherein contributions and income from them are exempt from tax, but accumulated savings are taxed at retirement. Taxing interest income would mean subjecting EPF to an ETE (exempt, taxed, exempt) treatment, a system not used anywhere in the world for such funds.

 

2. Pilot phase of eBiz portal may be completed by the year-end

Topic: Indian Economy

Category: Technology missions, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial
growth

Location: The Hindu, Page 15

Key Points:

  • A pilot version of a government portal to improve the ease of doing business in India, slated to be operational in June 2012, may be completed by the end of this year.
  • The scaled down version of eBiz project, a government to business portal, has started picking up pace.
  • By December 2016 the pilot phase will be completed with the integration of 50 government services related to investors, industries and businesses of the Centre and ten states — Andhra Pradesh (AP), Delhi, Haryana, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh (UP) and West Bengal.
  • These 50 services include 26 related to the Central government and 24 pertaining to the states.
  • Once these services pertaining to starting, running and closing down a business – completing the entire lifecycle of a business entity — are integrated to the eBiz portal, it will effectively become a single window clearance mechanism.
  • Businesses and investors will be able to use the services 24X7 online, including for completing e-forms online, uploading them as well as the required documents as attachments, making payments online, submitting the forms online, tracking the status of applications, receiving SMS alerts from the government, obtaining the needed licenses or permits and downloading the certificates and getting approvals.
  • The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) is the nodal Central government agency for the eBiz project being developed with the help of National Institute of Smart Government and IT major Infosys through the Public Private Partnership route.
  • The difficulties the project faced in taking off included delays in finalisation of the payment gateway solution as well as several government departments and states showing reluctance to integrate their services to the portal.
  • The government aims to integrate more than 200 services to the portal within a few years. An objective of the project is to improve India’s ranking in the World Bank’s Doing Business index.
  • In the latest ranking India went up 12 places to 130th in a list of 189 countries.
  • The Centre aims to ensure that India is in the top 50 within the next three years.

 

Others:

3. ‘Govt bank write-off: Expert group to clean up, strengthen banks’: The Indian Express

Topic: Indian Economy

Category:  Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, changes in industrial policy

Location: The Indian Express, Page 01

Key Points:

  • Finance Minister said the government will immediately set up an expert group to examine consolidation of public sector banks and consider allowing PSBs to issue employee stock options (ESOPs).
  • Banks have to take all measures to clean up their books by effecting recoveries. The government is also working on strengthening the debt recovery mechanism to deal with non-performing assets (NPAs).
  • The Finance Ministry indicated recently it was open to merging subsidiary banks with parent banks — as in the case of State Bank of India — and to consolidate weak banks into larger banks. Consolidation of weak banks also reduces the burden of capitalisation on the government.
  • State Bank of Saurashtra and State Bank of Indore were merged with parent SBI in 2008 and 2010 respectively. SBI is now left with five associate banks — State Bank of Patiala, State Bank of Hyderabad, State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur, State Bank of Travancore and State Bank of Mysore.
  • Another suggestion that the government will consider is to allow PSBs to issue ESOPs.
  • To boost employee morale and performance, the SBI last year suggested that the government allow PSU banks to give ESOPs to their top management and share a higher proportion of profits with employees.
  • The Finance Ministry has estimated that the banking sector has Rs 8 lakh crore of stressed assets, out of the total outstanding loan book of Rs 69 lakh crore. Stressed assets include NPAs as well as loans that are written-off by banks.
  • In the current global environment, banks have to take all measures to clean up their books by effecting recoveries.
  • There is a suggestion for some amendments to the SARFAESI Act (Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act). There is also a suggestion with regard to expediting the DRT (Debts Recovery Tribunal) process by some more amendments to the Act. Department of Financial Services is working in that direction, it is in a fairly advanced stage.
  • Jaitley said the government is also setting up an expert committee to recommend how public sector banks too can go in for best recruitment, such as campus recruitment which is available to private sector banks.
  • The government has already constituted a Bank Board Bureau which seeks to reform the appointment process for top posts and improve governance at public sector banks.
  • Vinod Rai, former Comptroller and Auditor General, has been appointed chairman of the bureau, which has six other members.
  • The second edition of Gyan Sangam — the first was held in Pune last year and was addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi— debated issues such as restructuring and consolidation in state-owned banks, recovery of NPAs, sale of non-core assets and credit growth.

 

GS4 Related

— Nothing here today, folks! —

 

E. Important Editorials : A Quick Glance
F. Concepts-in-News: Related Concepts to Revise/Learn:

i.   DRT (Debts Recovery Tribunal)

ii.  Bank Board Bureau

iii. Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement (ETCA)

iv. DTP (diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis)

v.  Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG)

G. Fun with Practice Questions 🙂
To be Updated

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