GS Paper II –International Relations

U.S. nixed India’s plea on reforms in medicine

What’s Happening-

  • At WHO meet, New Delhi proposed discussion on ‘Access to Medicines’ report by UN panel.
  • A month after the 140th World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Executive Board meeting, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) response has revealed that the United States government had opposed including agenda items proposed by India, which aimed at reforming medical innovation that currently pump up drug prices to unaffordable levels.

Key Points discussed were:

  • The Indian government — along with 11 South East Asian countries — had proposed a discussion on an ‘Access to Medicines’ report by the United Nations High Level Panel that had recommended reforms in the funding of biomedical research and development.
  • However, the set of documents released by Knowledge Ecology International (KEI), a not for profit organisation that gives technical advice to governments, reveals that both the United States and the WHO opposed including the proposal by India.
  • The U.N. report says there is a need for an RD treaty and it recommended reforms in the area of biomedical R&D.
  • The U.S. government has a policy of blocking all reforms that would lead to funding the R&D system in a way that it prioritises diseases that kill millions of people in the developing world.
  • The U.S. government is not just a member-state of WHO but also a big donor.
  • This is consistent with the U.S. policy to pressure countries like India to have more IP barriers while blocking all attempts at reforms

Policy incoherence:

  • The U.N. Access to Medicines report had recommended solutions for remedying the policy incoherence between justifiable rights of inventors, trade rules and global public health targets.
  • The report recommended that “governments and the private sector must refrain from explicit or implicit threats, tactics or strategies that undermine the right of WTO Members to use TRIPS flexibilities.”

India’s Statement:

  • On March 1, India delivered a statement during WTO TRIPS Council discussions on the Access to Medicines report, urging member-states to discuss the report’s recommendations.

GS Paper II Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.

Apex court seeks Centre, MCI response on plea over NEET

What’s Happening-

  • A plea suggesting making Urdu as a medium for National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) 2017, a common entrance test for admissions in MBBS and BDS courses across the country, led the Supreme Court to seek responses from the Centre and the Medical Council of India (MCI).

Key Points discussed were:

  • Petition wants entrance test to be conducted in Urdu

Petition:

  • “Issue notice,” a Bench Comprising Justices Kurian Joseph and R. Banumathi said while taking note of the petition filed by Student Islamic Organisation (SIO).
  • The Bench also noted that the MCI was open to include any language as a medium for NEET if a request was made to it by States concerned.

CBSE, DCI get notice:

  • Besides the Centre and MCI, the court also issued notices to the Dental Council of India (DCI) and the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and fixed the plea for further hearing on March 10.
  • The counsel for the SIO informed the court that Maharashtra and Telangana have already apprised the MCI that Urdu be included as one of the medium for conducting NEET.

Allowed Languages in NEET:

  • Currently, NEET is being conducted in 10 languages — Hindi, English, Gujarati, Marathi, Odia, Bengali, Assamese, Telugu, Tamil and Kannada languages.

violative of Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution:

  • Earlier, the apex court had refused to give urgent hearing to the petition, filed through lawyers Parvez Dabas and Ravindra S. Garia, alleging that exclusion of Urdu as one of the languages in NEET exam to be held on May 7 was “arbitrary and violative of Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution”.
  • The decision to exclude Urdu which is the sixth most spoken language of India, while including seventh most spoken language Gujarati, and 12th most spoken language Assamese is completely without any rationale basis.

GS Paper II – Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

Centre dithers on Western Ghats issue

What’s Happening-

States have forced the MoEF to consistently delay imposing Ecological Sensitive Area restrictions.

Key Points discussed were:

  • On February 27, the government resuscitated a draft notification that was first published in March 2014 that specified how much land in various coastal States encompassing the Western Ghats would be earmarked as practically-inviolate. Because it wasn’t made into a final law — thanks to objections from States — this lapsed in a year and a half and on September 2015, a fresh draft notification with the same numbers was reintroduced. This too would expire on March 4.
  • The reiterated February notification — open to public comment for 60 days — allows the Centre to create an Ecological Sensitive Area (ESA) in the Western Ghats (WG), a 1,500 km, ecologically-rich strip along the west coast spanning Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Goa, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Regions declared as the ESA will not be allowed to host mining and quarrying projects and building thermal power plants.

Gadgil committee:

  • Ever since a committee headed by ecologist Madhav Gadgil recommended in 2011 that all of the Western Ghats be declared as the ESA — with only limited development allowed in graded zones— States have forced the Centre to consistently delay imposing the ESA restrictions. A committee headed by K. Kasturirangan, former ISRO chairman, recommended that only about 60,000 sq km — or about 37% of the WG and a significant reduction from that of the Gadgil committee — be declared as ESA.
  • Kerala managed to get this down to about 56,825 sqkm after widespread protests and an all-party resolution in the State forced the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to exclude 3,117 sqkm of settlements and agricultural land in the State from the ESA. Last week, the Chief Secretary of the State wrote to the MoEF that a further 887 sqkm of non-forest land be reduced.

Sources- The Indian Express, The Hindu. Page 6