GS Paper II – Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

Extremist forces delaying reconciliation: Sri Lanka

What’s Happening-
India’s TB burden is exacerbated by the government’s refusal to augment resources and enable access to newer drugs.

Key Points discussed were:

  • A crumbling health system, slashed budgets and an overcrowded country — these factors make India the perfect playground for one of the world’s oldest diseases, tuberculosis.
  • In 2015 alone, 4.8 lakh Indians died of the airborne disease.
  • In fact, India’s leading chest physician Dr. Zarir Udwadia called it “Ebola with wings”.
  • World Tuberculosis Day, March 24.

Thousands without access:

  • Two new TB drugs, Bedaquiline and Delamanid, being used in Europe and the United States for several years, are yet to be made available in India’s national health-care system.
  • In January, an 18-year-old Patna girl took the government to court after she was refused Bedaquiline on the grounds that she was not a resident of Delhi. 
  • The drug is available only in six sites across the country and, according to Health Ministry’s annual TB report released, only 207 patients have access to the drug needed by at least 79,000 patients.
  • TB does not respect geographical boundaries and these patients continue to transmit drug-resistant forms of the disease due to the poor access to medicines.
  • Not only does India shoulder the highest TB burden in the world with over 2 million of the 10 million cases reported here, it also accounts for the most drug-resistant patients nearly 1.3 lakh people who do not respond to first-line drugs. 

Background-
Tuberculosis (TB) is an  caused by the bacterium  (MTB).Tuberculosis generally affects the , but can also affect other parts of the body.Most infections do not have symptoms, in which case it is known as .The classic symptoms of active TB are a chronic  with  , , , and .The historical term “consumption” came about due to the weight loss.Infection of other organs can cause a wide range of symptoms.Tuberculosis is  when people who have active TB in their lungs cough, spit, speak, or sneeze.
Prevention of TB involves screening those at high risk, early detection and treatment of cases, and  with the  vaccine.

Key Points discussed were:

Measures:

  • Get early diagnosis and the right treatment.
  • India has to invest extensively and urgently if it has to expand the testing facilities and get the drugs to the patients. 

The intent-action deficit:

  • The budget estimates in the annual TB report are in fact lower than that of 2014-15. As against ₹1,358 crores requested, the government approved ₹710 crores in 2014-15.
  • In 2016, however, in the face of trenchant criticism, the budget requested actually went down to ₹1,000 crores and the approved budget was a measly ₹640 crores. “By no means is this enough to expand the programme

Aim to “eliminate TB” by 2025:

  • Union Health Minister J.P. Nadda has announced that his Ministry will be ensuring affordable and quality health care to the population is a priority for the government and we are committed to achieving zero TB deaths and therefore we need to re-strategise, think afresh and have to be aggressive in our approach to end TB by 2025,” he said on World Tuberculosis Day.

GS Paper III – Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment

India safe, but can do more for tourists’

What’s Happening-

  • The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the Madrid-headquartered U.N. agency which promotes responsible, sustainable, and universally accessible tourism, sees India as a safe country for tourists.

Key Points discussed were:

UNWTO Chief, Programme and Coordination, Philippe Lemaistre said-

  • There are no safety concerns for tourists in India. It is a diverse and big country and tourists are confused about where to go. Branding and hassle-free visa facilitation will further increase footfall.

Social media’s role:

  • The country and the stakeholders of tourism industry should not ignore the increasing and vital role played by the social media in tourism promotion and helping vacationers shortlist destinations, he said.

Tourism for Climate change:

  • UNWTO is looking into the role of tourism in climate change and how tourism could an economy adapt to climate change. Countries would be encouraged to exchange ideas and share their best tourism practices.
  • Through proper networking, issues such as waste management, water management, and erosion of beach and sand dunes could be addressed.
  • China had already gone ahead with the networking process as mooted by the UNWTO.
  • The world forum has rolled out Tips for a Responsible Traveller (#TRAVELENJOYRESPECT) to make travel rewarding for tourists, for the people they meet, and the places they visit.

2017 as International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development:

  • In connection with observing 2017 as International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, he said the UNWTO would bring out reports on contribution of tourism to development and the relation between tourism and sustainable development goals.
  • The three-day Regional Commission for Asia Pacific and South Asia will be held from May 15 in Dhaka.

Praise for Kumarakom:

  • Kerala State has world-class beaches. The backwaters were famous. 
  • Lauding the Responsible Tourism (RT) initiative in Kerala, the UNWTO official said the Kumarakom RT project was popular and Kerala was always seen as a green and responsible destination.
  • “UNWTO is for demonstrating good examples to the world. Tourism is an engine for development and good practices has to be showcased.”

GS Paper II –International Relations

India-U.S. civil nuclear pact likely to miss June deadline

What’s Happening-

  • More than two years after India and the U.S. announced that the civil nuclear deal was “done,” its actual operationalisation is in doubt over a number of developments that stretch from a “school scandal” in the Japanese parliament to the Cranberry, Pennsylvania headquarters of Westinghouse Electric, which is expected to file for bankruptcy this week.

Key Points discussed were:

Six reactors for A.P:

  • According to the agreement over liability issues and the negotiations that followed former U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to India in January 2015 and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington in June 2016, the two sides had agreed to “work toward finalising the contractual arrangements by June 2017” for six reactors to be built in Andhra Pradesh by Toshiba-owned Westinghouse and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL).
  • When completed, this was to be the first operationalisation of the India-U.S. civil nuclear deal, which was announced in 2008, and proof that both sides had effectively sorted out all their issues, including over the liability that suppliers must accept in the event of an accident.
  • However, recent developments have led to uncertainty over the June 2017 timeline

Reasons for delay:

  • The reason for the concern is that the nuclear arrangement hinged on two major factors — the completion of the India-Japan Nuclear Cooperation Agreement (NCA), as Toshiba and other suppliers for reactor parts are bound by Japanese laws and by the actual contract to be negotiated by the U.S.-based Westinghouse.
  • While the NCA was signed in Tokyo in November 2016, it is yet to be ratified by Diet (Japanese Parliament). 
  • The NCA was expected to have been ratified in early March during the current session, but has been derailed by a controversy over accusations that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, his wife and the Defence Minister Tomomi Inada favoured an alleged “sweetheart deal” for a school in Osaka. 
  • Even once the India NCA is tabled, we expect to see some opposition in Parliament, as this is the first such agreement with a country that has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
  • While the suspense over the NCA plays out in the east, in the west the questions are growing over the impact of a possible bankruptcy filing under ‘Chapter 11’ U.S. laws by Westinghouse over massive $6.3 billion losses the company incurred last year, largely due to cost over-runs. The decision is expected to be announced this week by March 31.
  • Even in the absence of land acquisition procedures for the other India-U.S. nuclear venture with GE-Hitachi for six 1594 MW reactors, the future of the India-U.S. nuclear deal is, for the moment, pinned to the future of Westinghouse itself.