1.Lessons not learnt (The Hindu)

2.Target Section 377 (The Hindu, Live mint)

 

1.Lessons not learnt (The Hindu) 

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of rising cases of Swine flu, the high H1N1 flu toll points to a failure to put necessary systems. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • India appears to be in the grip of a Swine flu outbreak. Swine flu, the viral illness that became a pandemic in 2009, has made a comeback this year, the number of influenza A (H1N1) virus cases and deaths reported from across India this year has already crossed 19,000 and 900, respectively. Though the figures are lower than the 2015 but the revived spread is alarming.
  • In the last month or so there has been a sharp increase in the number of cases and deaths.  According to the government data Gujarat is the worst affected with highest number of deaths, Rajasthan, Punjab and Maharashtra and Delhi too have been badly hit.

What is swine flu?

  • A respiratory disease caused by a strain of the influenza type A virus known as H1N1
  • Originated in pigs, but is now a human disease spread by coughing and sneezing
  • Symptoms similar to those produced by standard, seasonal flu – fever, cough, sore throat, body aches and chills
  • Vulnerable groups include pregnant women, children under five, the over-65s and those with serious medical conditions
  • The virus first appeared in Mexico in 2009 and rapidly spread around the world.

Assessment

  • According to the Pune-based National Institute of Virology, the virus has not undergone any significant mutation and the virulence has remained nearly unchanged. It has however undergone point mutations which resulted in a new strain ‘the Michigan strain’ replacing ‘the California strain’ that has been prevalent since the 2009 pandemic.
  • As per the surveillance data, only ‘the Michigan strain’ has been circulating this year. The increased caseload and mortality this year compared with last year could be because pre-existing immunity through exposure to the California strain is no longer effective, and people are therefore not immune to the new strain.
  • For 2017-18, in line with World Health Organization guidelines, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has recommended Seasonal Influenza Trivalent inactivated vaccine according to the strain. This vaccine is expected to offer good effectiveness against currently circulating subtypes of influenza.
  • Over the years, evidence has been established through research globally on the protection provided by Seasonal Influenza Vaccine, in particular for those at higher risk. It helps protect women during pregnancy and their babies up to six months and among vaccinated, reduction in influenza related hospitalizations across all age groups is expected.

No lesson learnt

  • There is a regular updates provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, especially during an epidemic, however in India despite the high numbers, there is no system in place to release data periodically and frequently.
  • On the part of government, it has been near-complete failure in spreading awareness about prevention strategies. Uptake of influenza vaccination by people, especially by those belonging to the high-risk category, has been extremely poor.

Way ahead

  • Since the 2009 pandemic, H1N1 has become a seasonal flu virus strain in India even when the temperature soars during the summer months. Vaccination of health-care workers and people in high-risk categories is the only way to reduce the toll.
  • Apart from this more research is needed to fully understand the epidemiology of H1N1 caused by the Michigan strain, and who may be more vulnerable than ‘the California strain’.
  • There are urgent measures requires to ramp up preparedness in dealing with epidemics. There is need to improve our vaccination programme as WHO recommends vaccination for high-risk groups. Vaccination is an important tool to prevent infection and severe outcomes caused by influenza viruses.

Question– Epidemics not only poses the financial costs on poor social but also erodes the productivity of an enterprise and subsequently of a nation. How govt. should meet with this challenge?

 

2.Target Section 377 (The Hindu, Live mint)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issues how the debate on Section 377, marked by demands by LGBT and human rights activists to decriminalize homosexuality, is set to be revived by the latest judgements. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • The Supreme Court of India, over the past few days delivered two landmark verdicts that will change the discourse of Indian civil society. In the historic verdict ‘Right to Privacy’ was declared as a fundamental right and 5-judge constitutional bench ruled that instant ‘Triple talaq’ was unconstitutional.
  • However same gender sex remains a crime in the country due to a flagrant judicial mistake committed by the Supreme Court in 2013, now the time has come to undo it.  The new ruling on Privacy rights contains a clear enunciation of the constitutional basis for protection of rights based on sexual orientation.
  • There is need restore the Delhi High Court judgment of 2010 in Naz Foundation, which read down Section 377 to decriminalise consensual sex among adults irrespective of gender.

Assessment

  • The Supreme Court has widened the realm of the right to privacy to include all sorts of personal choices. These include an individual’s choice to travel, to reside and to decide whether or not to terminate a pregnancy. It also protects various aspects of an individual’s intimate life, including their sexual orientation.
  • While declaring that the right to privacy is a fundamental right and an inherent component of human liberty and dignity, the nine-judge Bench has observed that the rationale behind the Koushal judgment is flawed and unsustainable. It has said the rights of LGBT persons are real rights founded on sound constitutional doctrine and not “so-called rights” as the earlier Bench had described them disdainfully.
  • There was claim made in Koushal judgement that there was no need to challenge Section 377 because the LGBT community constitutes only a minuscule minority, it was unreasonable to advance the view that constitutional protection is available to a group based on its size.
  • In the National Legal Services Authority (2014), bench has observed that Transgenders, even though insignificant in numbers, are entitled to human rights. However Section 377 had been an instrument of harassment and abuse, discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity must end.
  • By commending this norm, the court has located sexual orientation not only as a freedom flowing from the right to privacy, but as demanding of non-discriminatory treatment. Both these verdicts correctly refrained from ruling on the validity of Section 377, as it was not the primary question before them.

Way ahead

  • With the recent judgements it is quite apparent that a strong body of constitutional jurisprudence is now available to target Section 377. By the latest verdict, sexual orientation is an aspect of the right to privacy and an inalienable part of human dignity, freedom, and personal liberty. The recent judgement is revolutionary and is building upon the normative as well as substantive directions under the right to life and liberty.

Question–  Section 377 has been a heated topic through out the period preceding Naz judgement. What India can learn to safeguard LGBT community from global experiences in this regard?