19 Oct Current Affairs for CDS 2 2016 Indian Economy
With the recent trend followed in the UPSC Pre paper we are lining up the same set of current affairs notes for the CDS/NDA Aspirants
ECONOMY & FINANCE
India ratifies Trade Facilitation Agreement of WTO
India has formally ratified the WTO’s (World Trade Organisation) Trade Facilitation Agreement, which aims at easing customs procedures to boost commerce.
In this regard, India’s WTO ambassador Anjali Prasad handed over the instrument of acceptance to WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo. India is the 76th WTO member to ratify the TFA.
What is Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA)?
The TFA is the WTO’s first-ever multilateral accord that aims to simplify customs regulations for the cross-border movement of goods.
It was outcome of WTO’s 9th Bali (Indonesia) ministerial package of 2013. The agreement includes provisions for
Lowering import tariffs and agricultural subsidies: It will make it easier for developing countries to trade with the developed world in global markets.
Abolish hard import quotas: Developed countries would abolish hard import quotas on agricultural products from the developing world and instead would only be allowed to charge tariffs on amount of agricultural imports exceeding specific limits.
Reduction in red tape at international borders: It aims to reduce red-tapism to facilitate trade by reforming customs bureaucracies and formalities.
The ratification will supplement India’s ongoing reforms to bring in simplification and enhanced transparency in cross border trade in goods.
It will further help India to boost economic growth by reducing trade costs and supporting its integration into the global economy.
The implementation of the TFA has the potential to create US 1 trillion dollars’ worth of global economic activity which may add 21 million new jobs and lower the cost of doing international trade by 10 to 15 per cent.
National Capital Goods Policy, 2016
The Capital Goods industry is one of the key contributors to value added manufacturing in India. Capital goods include plant machinery, equipment and accessories required for manufacture or production of goods or for rendering services, either directly or indirectly. Currently, the Capital goods sector is contributing 12% to manufacturing sector which translates to around 2% of GDP. It employs around 15 Lakh people across various sub-sectors. The sector also plays an important role in improving India’s trade balance.
Problems in Capital Goods industry
India’s 1956 industrial policy was in favour of domestic production of capital goods particularly machine tools. This created a strong capital goods sector in India. But the growth was not sustained on continuous basis because of the protection and support from the government was incomplete. The policy from 1980’s started dismantling the structure of import protection and public sector investment in the capital goods industry. This led to the weakening of the domestic industry and growth of the imports and foreign firm production in India.
For last many years, the capital goods sector is witnessing slow growth. The growth over the past 3 years has been a mere 0.3% annually. Imports contribute around 45% of capital goods demand and domestic capacity utilisation across its sub-sectors is only around 60-70%. Local manufacturers have not been able to effectively tap the global market. Delay in implementation of approved projects retarded the growth of the sector.
Main issues in Capital Goods Sector
Inadequate growth of domestic market for capital goods.
Falling share of domestic production in total domestic consumption and growth of more imports. This can be attributed to the underutilisation of domestic capacity and slowdown in domestic capacity creation.
India failed to make a mark in the global market for capital goods, with its share in global exports placed at less than one per cent.
There is inadequate capacity expansion in infrastructure and power industries, and institutional issues such as inadequate inter-ministerial coordination.
Contractual clauses in public procurement policy inhibited the domestic production and have a “limited positive bias” in favour of domestic value addition.
Permission to import second-hand machinery discouraged the domestic production. The provision of a zero import duty concession for several items imported under the “project imports” category has put the domestic industry at a disadvantage position.
Trade agreements (FTAs) with several countries that have a comparative advantage over India in capital goods production as opposed to those with respect to which India has strong export potential.
“Skewed tax and duty structure” has adversely affected the cost structure and competitiveness of the industry. In certain category of imports “inverted duty structure” is still prevalent. Inverted duty structure means lower import duty on finished products than on raw materials and components.
Low technology depth is a critical problem with current levels ranging “from basic to intermediate”. This is the result of policy failure; with R&D spend in India, at 0.9 per cent of GDP which is low when compared to countries like South Korea and Japan.
In India Capital goods industry is fragmented with many small units operating at uneconomic scale capacities. This made India uncompetitive in global market.
Other issues are related low level of skill development and non-availability of long term finance to the sector.
National Capital Goods Policy, 2016
To unlock the potential for this promising sector and to establish India as a global manufacturing powerhouse under Make in India initiative, Government has unveiled a National Capital Goods Policy 2016. A draft policy was released earlier in November 2015.
The policy seeks to address some of the key issues including availability of finance, raw material, productivity, quality and environment friendly manufacturing practices, innovation and technology, creating domestic demand and promoting exports.
Key features of Policy
The National Capital Goods Policy 2016 aims at increasing exports to 40 percent of production, from the current 27 percent.
Push to Domestic Production
The policy aims to increase the share or domestic production in the country’s demand to 80 percent from 60 per cent, potentially making India net exporter of capital goods.
The policy aims to facilitate improvement in technology depth across subsectors, increase skill availability, ensure mandatory standards and promote growth and capacity building of MSMEs.
The policy seeks to enhance Indian made capital goods export through a ‘Heavy Industry Export & Market Development Assistance Scheme (HIEMDA)’.
Increased Budgetary Allocation
This includes strengthening existing scheme of DHI (Department of Heavy Industry) on enhancement of competitiveness of Capital Goods sector by increasing budgetary allocation.
Technology Development Fund
The policy advocates launching a Technology Development Fund under the public-private partnership (PPP) model to fund technology acquisition, transfer of technology, purchase or JPRs, designs and drawings as well as commercialisation of such capital goods technologies.
Integration with subsectors
The policy looks to integrate key capital goods sub-sectors. It also seeks to make standards mandatory in order to reduce sub-standard machine imports and provide opportunity to local manufacturing units and launch scheme of skill development for Capital Goods sector.
The policy also suggests creation of a ‘Start-up Center’ for capital goods sector’ to provide an array of technical, business and financial support sources and services to promising start-ups in manufacturing and services.
The policy also calls for mandatory standardisation, which includes defining minim urn acceptable standards for the industry and adoption of International Organization for Standardization norms.
This is for the first time that government in India has come up with a national policy for capital goods sector. The implementation of the above recommendations both in letter and spirit may usher a new phase in capital goods industry in India.
WTO pen drive case: India, Taiwan complete consultation process
The bilateral consultation process between India and Taiwan on the issue of Chinese Taipei dragging India to WTO for imposing anti-dumping duty on its exports of pen drives has been completed.
“In the consultation (completed last month), India has contested the claims of Taiwan. They have gone back to their industries.
“Now, either they can again request for another consultation with India if they come back with more queries or they can approach the WTO’s dispute settlement panel,” an official said.
Approaching the WTO’s panel may stretch the process of resolution of the issue and involve litigation in Geneva.
On September 24, Taiwan had filed a case in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) against India for imposing anti-dumping duty on imports of USB flash drives or pen drives as known in common parlance.
After the recommendation of the Directorate General of Anti-Dumping & Allied Duties (DGAD), in May, the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) had imposed the anti-dumping duty on imports of USB flash drives or pen drives from China and Taiwan.
The DGAD in its probe had concluded that the product was exported from Chinese Taipei into the Indian market at prices less than their normal values.
India had imposed anti-dumping duty on imports of ‘USB Flash Drives’ from China and Chinese Taipei at USD 3.06 per piece and USD 3.12 a piece, respectively, for five years.
The request for consultations formally initiates a dispute in the WTO. Consultations give the parties an opportunity to discuss the matter and find a satisfactory solution without proceeding further with litigation.
After 60 days, if consultations have failed to resolve the dispute, the complainant may request adjudication by a panel.
In market parlance, USB Flash Drives are also known by various other names such as pen drive, keychain drives, key drives, USB sticks, flash sticks, jump sticks, USB keys or memory keys.
Countries initiate anti-dumping probes to check if domestic industry has been hurt because of a surge in below-cost imports. As a counter-measure, they impose duties under the multilateral WTO regime.
FDI flows into India nearly doubled in 2015: UNCTAD
Foreign direct investment flows into India nearly doubled in 2015 while the US emerged as the top host country for FDI last year.
Global FDI flows “unexpectedly” increased significantly by 36 per cent, according to the annual report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
“Global FDI unexpectedly increased significantly to $1.7 trillion and this is closer to the pre-crisis level and it is the highest since the global financial and economic crisis,” said James Zhan, UNCTAD’s Director of the Division on Investment and Enterprise.
Asia remained the largest FDI recipient region in the world, surpassing half a trillion US dollars and accounting for one-third of the global FDI flows.
The US bounced back as the top host country for FDI in 2015 with FDI worth $384 billion.
The US is followed by Hong Kong ($163 billion), China ($136 billion), the Netherlands ($90 billion), the UK ($68 billion), Singapore ($65 billion), India ($59 billion), Brazil ($56 billion), Canada ($45 billion) and France ($44 billion) as the top 10 FDI host economies of the world.
FDI flows to the developed countries bounced back sharply reaching their second highest level ever at $936 billion.
FDI flows are expected to decline in 2016, UNCTAD said.
This reflects “the fragility of the global economy, volatility of global financial markets, weak aggregate demand and significant deceleration in large emerging economies”.
Elevated geo-political risks and regional tensions could further amplify these economic challenges.
HEALTH & NUTRITION
For new vaccines added to mission Indradhanush
The government’s ambitious Mission Indradhanush programme, which provides immunisation against seven life threatening diseases, is all set to be re-christened as four new vaccines have been added into it.
The programme depicting seven colours of the rainbow provides vaccination to seven vaccine preventable diseases which include diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, measles and Hepatitis B, According to Health Minister J P Nadda, the four new vaccination has been added to the immunisation programme, its name will be changed. The new vaccines are rotavirus, measles rubella, inactivated polio vaccine and Japanese Encephalitis for adults.
With this, now 11 vaccines have been covered under the programme. As per the Union Health mininster, in one year time, 1.62 crore children have been additionally brought under the ambit of immunisation and about 45 lakh have been totally immunized additionally. Mission Indradhanush aims at covering all children by 2020 who are either un-vaccinated, or are partially vaccinated against these vaccine preventable diseases.
Indigenous Rotavirus Vaccine Launched
The government launched the vaccine for Rotavirus vaccine as part of Universal Immunization Programme to prevent child mortaility due to Rotavirus diarrhoea. The vaccine, developed indigenously under a public-private partnership by the science and health ministries, is also a landmark achievement under the Prime Minister’s “Make in India” initiative.
Launching the vaccine at a function in Bhubaneswar, Union Health Minister J P Nadda said, the vaccine is initially being introduced in 4 States which are Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Odisha. The introduction of Rotavirus vaccine will enable the government to directly address the problem of diarrheal deaths.
Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe vomiting and diarrhoea among infants and young children. It is a genus of double-stranded RNA virus in the family Reoviridae. Nearly every child in the world has been infected with rotavirus at least once by the age of five. Immunity develops with each infection, so subsequent infections are less severe; adults are rarely affected.
Rotavirus is one of the leading causes of severe diarrhoea and annually causes close to one lakh deaths among children in this age group.
Rotavirus vaccine in the country’s immunization program would also reduce hospitalization, malnutrition and delayed physical and mental development among children.
Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP)
Union Health Minister – J P Nadda.
ICMR and SUN Pharma join hands for eradication of malaria
The Indian Council of Medical Research(ICMR) and pharmaceutical major Sun Pharma have entered into a public-private partnership (PPP) to eradicate malaria.
The partners will jointly set up management and technical committees to provide oversight for malaria surveillance and elimination.
In its first phase, the project will be launched at Mandla district of Madhya Pradesh, covering 1,200 villages over three to five years.
As part of this corporate social responsibility initiative, Sun Pharma will launch an independent not-for-profit foundation.
Sixty percent of malaria cases in India are take place in the Northeastern region and five states— Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Maharashtra.
The Indian Council of Medical Research the apex body in India for the formulation, coordination and promotion of bio-medical research, is one of the oldest and largest medical research bodies in the world.
In 1911, the Government of India set up the Indian Research Fund Association (IRFA) with the specific objective of sponsoring and coordinating medical research in the country. After independence, several important changes were made in the organisation and the activities of the IRFA. It was re-designated the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in 1949, with considerably expanded scope of functions.
The ICMR is funded by the Government of India through the Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
ICMR’s 26 National Institutes address themselves to research on specific health topics like tuberculosis, leprosy, cholera and diarrhoeal diseases, viral diseases including AIDS, malaria, kala-azar, vector control, nutrition, food & drug toxicology, reproduction, immuno-haematology, oncology, medical statistics, etc.
Healthcare ATMs Launched
Five healthcare ATMs have come up in four states. Those states are MP, Himachal Pradesh, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. These ATMs are ging to come up under a Health Ministry pilot that combines telemedicine with a rudimentary free drugs programme. The health ministry is aiming that these ATMs would tide over the massive shortage of doctors in the country. It will also save from the risk of pilferage in free drugs programmes. For these ATMs technical support is being provided by the division of healthcare technology and National Health Systems Research Centre.
These ATMs will be manned by a multipurpose public health worker (MPHW) or an auxiliary nurse midwife (ANM)armed with a multi-parameter patient vital monitor and other devices required for checking basic health parameters. After the patient has been registered, these indicators would be transmitted to a medical call centre through a GSM-based monitor. For starters, basic health parameters such as temperature, blood pressure, blood glucose and blood hemoglobin will be checked and the data instantly transmitted.
At the call centre, doctors will evaluate the condition of the patient and if necessary talk to patients and decide whether the person needs to be referred to a centre where a doctor is available or whether can be treated locally with medications. In the latter case, a prescription will be generated and a command given automatically to the ATM to dispense only the drug prescribed, and no other. The MPHW will explain the dosage to the patient. And in case urgent referral is required, the 108 ambulance service will be made available at the sub-centre.
With 5 to 8% of India’s rural health centres running without a qualified medical practitioner, these ATMs are meant for such centres. India currently has 0.51 doctors per 1,000 population, half the 1:1,000 ratio recommended by World Health Organization. Rural India’s ratio is 0.63 per 10,000.
The concept of an ATM for healthcare, where the machine is essentially a patient portal that delivers a limited set of medical services, is catching on across the world and being tried out in various forms. The ministry is trying out to provide it free for the patient while in case of commercial version have a built in payment option.
Bio Medical Waste Management Rules, 2016
The Environment ministry released the new Bio-medical Waste (BMW) Management Rules on March 2016 which will bring in more comprehensive regime for bio waste management.
To improve the collection, segregation, processing, treatment and disposal of bio-medical wastes in an environmentally sustainable manner thereby reducing the bio- medical waste generation and its impact on the environment.
These rules shall apply to hospitals, dispensaries, veterinary institutions, pathological laboratories, blood banks, research or educational institutions.
Bio medical waste:
Biomedical waste comprises human & animal anatomical waste, treatment apparatus like needles, syringes and other materials used in health care facilities in the process diagnosis, treatment, research or immunization of human beings or animals or in the production or testing of biologicals.
Health-care waste management:
The Government of India specifies that Hospital Waste Management is a part of hospital hygiene and maintenance activities.
This involves management of range of activities such as collection, transportation, operation or treatment of processing systems and disposal of wastes.
WHO states that 85% of the hospital waste is non-hazardous, 15% is infectious, infectious, toxic or radioactive (hazardous).
Mixing of hazardous results in to contamination and makes the entire waste hazardous.
Hence there is necessity to segregate and treat the health care wastes.
Improper disposal increases risk of infection and encourages recycling of prohibited disposables develops resistant microorganisms which can infect patients, health workers and the general public.
Health-care waste in some circumstances is incinerated and dioxins, furans and other toxic air pollutants may be produced as emissions.
The hospitals are required to put in place the mechanisms for effective disposal either directly or through common biomedical waste treatment and disposal facilities.
Features of BMW Management Rules, 2016:
Expansion of ambit: The ambit of the rules has been expanded to include vaccination camps, blood donation camps, surgical camps or any other healthcare activity.
Phasing out chlorinated materials: Rules phase-out the use of chlorinated plastic bags, gloves and blood bags within 2 years.
Pre-treatment: Pre-treatment of the laboratory waste, microbiological waste, blood samples and blood bags through disinfection orsterilisation on-site in the manner as prescribed by WHO or NACO.
Thus, it will accelerate government’s clean India Mission.
Immunising health care worker: Provide training to all the health care workers and immunising them regularly.
Bar-code for proper control: Establish a Bar-Code System for bags or containers containing bio-medical waste for disposal.
Reduction in categorisation: Bio-medical waste has been classified in to 4 categories instead 10 to improve the segregation of waste at source.
Standards for incinerator: The new rules prescribe more stringent standards for incinerator (burning of wastes) to reduce the emission of pollutants in environment. Inclusion of emissions limits for toxic components like Dioxin and furans.
Common bio-medical waste treatment: State government to provide land for setting up common bio-medical waste treatment and disposal facility.
Operator of a common bio-medical waste treatment and disposal facility to ensure the timely collection of bio-medical waste from the Health Care Facilities (HCF) and assist the HCFs in conduct of training.
National Family Health Surey-4
The first phase results of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4), which was conducted in 2015-16, were released in January, 2016. The NFHS-4 survey interviewed men of 15-54 years age and women of 15-49 years age. The first phase results covered 13 states and 2 union territories. The NFHS-4 is for the first time collecting data from all 29 states and all 7 Union Territories. For the first time, the NFHS-4 will provide estimates at the district level. Given the wide intra-state variations, the disaggregated data at the district level helps in better understanding of the data and future policy formulation. The key take away from this survey is that a large part of India has shown substantial improvement in health of its citizens over the past decade.
The NFHS is a large-scale, multi-round survey conducted across India in a representative sample of households. The survey collects information about various parameters such as fertility, infant and child mortality, the practice of family planning, maternal and child health, reproductive health, nutrition, anaemia, utilization and quality of health and family planning services. The first NFHS was conducted in 1992-93. The NFHS-2 and NFHS-3 were conducted in 1998-99 and 2005-06 respectively.
Observations from NFHS-4 data
Child mortality Infant
mortality rate is the number of deaths of infants under one year per 1,000 live births.
Child mortality rate is the number of deaths in children under five years per 1,000 live births.
The survey shows that all 13 states and 2 union territories have IMR of less than 51 deaths. Andaman and Nicobar Islands has the lowest IMR of 10 deaths whereas Madhya Pradesh has the highest IMR of 51 deaths. India’s current IMR is 37.
The data on sex ratio at birth (females per 1,000 males) shows mixed trends. While the earlier worse performing states like Haryana, Tamil Nadu, and Bihar have showed significant improvement, the states like MP, Karnataka and West Bengal, which performed better earlier, have declining sex ratios. This is a worrying factor as killing of unborn girl child might have spread to newer areas.
The data from 11 states shows that there are 985 females per 1,000 males in 2015-16 compared to 1000 females per 1000 males in 2005-06. Only in Uttarakhand, sex ratio increased from 996 to 1,015 females per 1,000 males. Meghalaya saw its sex ratio stabilise at 1,005 females per 1,000 males. All other states saw a disturbing fall in sex ratio.
Child nutrition, stunting and underweight
The data also highlights the double burden of malnutrition in India. While there is a widespread undernourishment, there is also a sharp rise in the number of obese people.
The NFHS–4 data also shows a decline in stunting among children under five from 43% to 32%. Similarly there is a decline in prevalence of underweight children under five from 39% to 29%. But there are stark regional differences. The poorer states continued to have low levels of health and nutrition. Poor nutrition is less common than reported in the last round of the National Family Health Survey. In nine states and union territories, fewer than one-third of children are found short for their age. In Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Meghalaya, more than 40% children are still stunted.
In all the states (except Goa) more than 50% of children and women are anaemic. To be more precise 50 per cent of the children under five are anaemic in 10 states.
Comment: Tackling Malnutrition in India
Tackling malnutrition in India has for long been a laggard. Former PM Manmohan Singh had said in January 2012 that India’s levels of malnutrition were a “national shame”. Many reasons are attributed to this and dietary lacunae is one of the primary reasons. Since diet has regional, cultural, religious and economic dimensions, it becomes a tough job in addressing them. The NFHS-4, however, suggests that change will happen in spite of all this. In addition, decades of slow economic growth and inefficient primary healthcare in India had worse malnutrition statistics than even some of the sub-Saharan countries.
According to the National Family Health Survey, 2015-16, at least six out of 10 children received full immunization in 12 of the 15 states and union territories. In Goa, West Bengal, Sikkim, and Puducherry, more than four-fifths of the children have been fully immunized.
Due to the launch of the programmes like National Rural Health Mission after NFHS-3, the improvements in public health systems have shown some results. While there is an improvement in immunisation coverage in many states, few states have shown slight decline. There is an urgency to include new vaccines in the national programme.
Maternal mortality rate (MMR)
There is a reduction in maternal mortality rates due to various measures introduced to improve the care given to pregnant women and attention on nutritional requirement of adolescent girls. There is a significant increase in the number of institutional deliveries in many states with more than 90% institutional births in eight of the 15 states. The delivery in an institution improves the post-natal care also and thus helps in reduction of infant and maternal mortality rates. According to the survey, almost all mothers have received antenatal care for their most recent pregnancies and an increasing number of women are receiving the recommended four or more visits by the service providers. More and more women now give birth in healthcare facilities, and rates have more than doubled in some states in the last decade.
The highest jump has been seen in institutional deliveries. Institutional deliveries in Bihar rose three-fold—from 19.9% in 2005-06 to 63.8 % in 2014-15. Similarly, over the same period, institutional deliveries rose from 35.7% to 80.5% in Haryana and 26.2% to 80.8% in Madhya Pradesh. Data shows that infant mortality rates (IMR) declined in all the states and union territories surveyed—ranging from a low of 10 in Andaman and Nicobar Islands to a high of 51 deaths per 1000 live births in Madhya Pradesh.
Anaemia is usually associated with factors related to diet, nutrition and cultural practices, which are in turn linked to education and socio-economic backgrounds. It was also found that 50 per cent of the women are anaemic in 11 of the 15 states surveyed in the first phase.
The total fertility rate represents number of children born per woman. And it ranges from 1.2 in Sikkim to 3.4 in Bihar. It declined from 2.1 children per woman to 1.8 children per woman during the corresponding period. All first phase covered states and union territories except Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Meghalaya had either achieved or maintained replacement level of fertility. Except in Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya and Bihar, all states and the union territories have achieved replacement level of fertility. According to experts, declining fertility rates was a big achievement.
Alok Banerjee, a member of government’s technical committee on family planning adds: “Institutional deliveries have increased because of cash incentives that were introduced as part of the Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) in 2005. All stakeholders—the pregnant woman, accredited social health activists (ASHA workers) and empanelled private doctors—are paid incentives”. This has encouraged deliveries in health facilities, as against deliveries in homes.
A decline in fertility rates may imply that women are trying to exercise control over their bodies and that families are coming to a different understanding of both health and economics.
Family planning methods
While almost all states depict a decline in fertility rates, the survey also shows a decline in use of family planning methods. There is an increase in use of modern family planning methods in states such as Meghalaya, Haryana, and West Bengal. But in states such as Goa, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, there is a decline in use of modern family planning methods.
Population below 15 years
The population below 15 years, which is considered a part of demographic dividend, has decreased in the past 10 years. Sikkim has topped the list of states with decrease of population aged below 15 years, to 23.1% in 2015-16 from 30.7% in 2005-06. Sikkim was followed by Madhya Pradesh in the list with a decrease of seven percentage points in the period.
Health care expenditure
There is a concern over increasing cost of care in public health facilities. In spite of launching programmes such as Janani-Shishu Suraksha Karyakram to provide free and cashless services for pregnant women and new-born children, the NFHS-4 data indicates that women are spending anywhere between Rs.1,258 (Andaman & Nicobar) and Rs.7,772 (West Bengal) for a delivery in a public health facility. The government should focus more on reducing the high out-of-pocket expenditures on health.
Tobacco and alcohol consumption patterns
The data on tobacco consumption front is welcoming. Awareness Campaigns through street-plays and short documentaries have yielded the desired results in educating people on the negative impact of tobacco consumption. However, it should not be forgotten that there is still a lot of ground to cover as smoking is becoming popular among the youth, affecting adversely their health and education.
When it comes to alcohol, it may be noted that in many States, 25 is the legal age for consumption but there are many instances in which the pubs and bars serve liquor to teenagers. Also, an increase in use of other tobacco products like gutka must be of great concern among authorities. The government and the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have now started to shift their focus to rural areas where a major proportion of tobacco-consuming population still exists.
In the past 10 years, the number of obese people has doubled in the country. Among women, obesity levels increased from 13.92 per cent in 2005-06 to 19.56 per cent in 2015-16 and among men, the rise from the last decade has been from 10.35 per cent to 18.04 per cent.
With the exception of Puducherry, states showed a sharp rise in obesity levels among both men and women. States like Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have almost one in three women overweight. In Andhra Pradesh, 45.6 per cent of the total women surveyed in urban areas were found to be overweight, which is the highest in the country. Obesity among rural women in Andhra Pradesh was also found to be higher at 27.6 per cent, though it may not appear alarming, but is still high compared to other rural parts.
While rural Bihar recorded the fewest number of women suffering from obesity among the 15 States. Obesity is the major reason for developing different types of diabetes mellitus. As for blood sugar levels, urban centres records more cases of high blood sugar than the rural areas. The few exceptions have been recorded in various parts of the country. For instance, in Goa the number of women in rural areas with high blood sugar was more than in urban Goa. The same trend was mapped in Puducherry. In Tripura and also in Haryana, more men in rural areas had high blood sugar than men in urban parts. Thus, the government needs to focus on promoting good quality diverse diets.
It has been found that the number of people suffering from hypertension in rural India is higher than in urban parts. Higher stress levels in rural India and faulty diet in cities have thrown up two most disturbing health trends. Health experts have suggested that the overall obesity in urban India and rising hypertension in rural India was indicative of the faulty diet of people.
In Bihar, more women in rural parts were found to have hypertension compared to urban parts of Bihar. In Andaman and Nicobar, more men and women in rural parts were found to be suffering from hypertension than in urban centres, which is also the case in Meghalaya.
A health expert who was the former deputy director of the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad adds: “High stress levels in rural areas are rooted in income, agriculture and high cost of healthcare. Also on the food front, there is lack of potassium-rich food like fruits and vegetables.”
Schemes in operation to address nutritional challenges
There are numerous health-related schemes. Prominent among them are Integrated Child Development Scheme, which was started in 1975 to look into the health and well-being of mothers and children. The National Mid-Day Meal Scheme, the National Rural Health Mission and the Public Distribution System have had overlapping nutrition objectives. The National Nutritional Anaemia Prophylaxis Programme meant to maintain the adequate amount of iron and folate in expecting lactating mothers, children from aged 1-5 and anaemic adolescents was implemented as early as 1970.
Criticisms: Absence of standardisation in data collection
The way India collects its data on malnutrition leads to results that often point in different directions. The collection of nutrition data suffers from a lack of standardisation, as a result of which no two sets of data are comparable and leads to several data gaps, and experts cannot say for sure whether a particular policy was responsible for the improvements or not.
Some experts like Aparna John and Purnima Menon highlight this issue in Global Nutrition Report 2015. For instance, since 1992, several major nutrition surveys have been conducted in India, which includes:
Three National Family Health Surveys (NFHS) — 1992-1993 (Round 1), 1998-1999 (Round 2), and 2005-2006 (Round 3);
Four District-Level Health Surveys (DLHS) — 1998-1999, 2002-2004, 2007-2008, and 2012-2013.
Three Annual Health Surveys (AHS) — 2011, 2012, 2013.
One-time surveys — UNICEF’S RSOC (2015), and hungama survey by the Nandi Foundation (2011).
A study of all these surveys shows wide variations across their geographical coverage, frequency of data collection, etc. It may be pointed out that neither the NFHS nor the DLHS have any comparability when it comes to the targeted respondents among women. Researchers claim that with this confusing data, it becomes difficult to base policy prescription. Similarly, the shifting reference points for child anthropometry (which includes collecting data on stunting and wasting) makes it difficult to come to a conclusive conclusion and clear deduction in the scale of improvement. The same holds true for the frequency of the surveys.
It has been cited that instead of offering a clear direction for future policymaking, the latest data has only muddied the debate on malnutrition in India. Not surprisingly the result of all the above surveys results in confusion about the true state of malnutrition in India. Until last year, NFHS-3 (2005-06) data was held as the only one that could be quoted. NFHS-4 was delayed, and the results of DLHS-4 (2014) or HUNGaMA (2011) were not comparable to NHFS-3 because they did not cover the whole country. In addition, the results of DLHS-4 and HUNGaMA contradicted each other. Even with the introduction of RSOC data, it is difficult to say anything conclusively. This is due to the fact that RSOC is a one-time data set, and the government has itself put a question mark over it by not releasing the detailed state-level factsheet. According to a Ministry press release, a technical committee is reviewing the data.
Overall, the data presents a mixed picture. It is a well known fact that nutrition in the first two or three years of children’s life has a lasting impact on their development and the care given in later years cannot undo the setback caused by neglect during this foundational phase. So, it becomes imperative for a new policy course to provide access to nutrition and health as a right for all. To assert this right, there is a need to strengthen the schemes like Integrated Child Development Services scheme in all States, particularly those with a higher proportion of underweight and stunted children. Problem areas should be holistically addressed as even within the ICDS, there is a clear deficit in caring for the needs of children under three. Other important areas requiring intervention are access to antenatal care, reduction of high levels of anaemia among women, and immunization.
Also, there is a need to assess the health of citizens more frequently than the current NFHS cycle of seven to 10 years allows. Data gathered at short intervals such as every two or three years would help make timely policy corrections.
The Indian health system needs to address its structural and operational deficiencies. Millets and fortified food should be incorporated in midday meals to tackle the problem of hidden hunger (micronutrient deficiency). Fortification helps in enhancing the nutrients present in salt, rice, wheat, milk and so forth, and the fact that millets have higher nutrient levels than cereals should not be ignored.
World Health Organization (WHO) has set three goals for a country’s health system must aim for: to improve health, to be responsive to legitimate demands of the population and to ensure no one is at risk of serious financial losses because of ill health. If India has to reap its demographic dividend in an ageing world, it should have its citizens hale and healthy. The survey records changes that might ultimately speed up the improvement in health. At the same time, availability of latest data helps in taking corrective measures at regular intervals. It cannot be denied that sustained economic growth is not possible without state support to achieve the well-being of the population, especially women and children.
National framework for Malaria Elimination (NFME) 2016-2030
Government has launched National framework for Malaria Elimination, which outlines the strategies for eradication of the disease by 2030. The framework defines goals, objectives, strategies, targets and timelines which are developed to serve as a road map to eliminate malaria and improve health and quality of life of the people.
Key strategic approaches defined by NFME
States/UTs are classified into categories depending upon their Annual Parasite Incidence (API) or malaria endemicity. API number gives the number of cases affected by malaria per 1000 population per annum.
Category 0: prevention of reintroduction phase.
Category 1: Elimination phase. States falling under this category have the API equal to 1 at both state and district levels. 15 states/UTs fall under this category: Haryana, Goa, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Chandigarh, Daman & Diu, Delhi, Lakshadweep and Puducherry.
Category 2: Pre-elimination phase. States falling under this category has the overall API less than 1 but has greater than one in some districts. 11 states fall under this category: Nagaland, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
Category 3: Intensified control phase. States which has API>1 at both state and district levels falls under this category. These states are Madhya Pradesh, Chhatisgarh, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Odhisha, Tripura, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and Dadra and Nagar Haveli.
The districts are considered as the unit of planning and implementation and the high endemic areas are specially focused. Special strategy has also been designed for the elimination of P.vivax. The accredited social health activists will be provided special kits for immediate diagnosis of the disease. In addition, distribution of mosquito nets will also be increased.
Objectives of NFME
According to NFME, the following are identified as the objectives:
Elimination of malaria by 2022 from all low (Category 1) and moderate (Category 2) endemic states/UTs (26);
Reduction in the incidence of malaria to less than 1 case per 1000 population in all States/UTs and the districts and elimination of malaria in 31 states/UTs by 2024;
Interruption in the indigenous transmission of malaria by 2027 in all States/ UTs (Category 3);
Prevention of re-establishment of local transmission of malaria in areas where it has been completely eliminated and by 2030 maintaining the malaria-free status of the country.
Short term milestones
Under the 12th Five Year Plan, the target has been set to achieve API<1 at both the state and district levels by 2017.
All states/UTs are expected to include malaria elimination in their broader health policies by the end of 2016.
15 states/UTs falling under category 1 (elimination phase) are expected to interrupt transmission of malaria and achieve zero indigenous cases and deaths due to malaria by the end of 2020.
Primary advantages in eliminating malaria
It is estimated that annually in India alone more than 1 million cases are reported to have been affected by malaria and it has emerged as one of the worst public health crises that India has ever faced. The disease endangers the life of 1 in every 6 Indians and the economy loses $2bn in lost productivity each year. In India, the tribal areas are particularly the most affected from malaria, which pulls the children out of school, burdens the family by pushing them in to debts and further leads to the death of many people.
Eradication of malaria will result in reduction in the expenditure on diseases control programme and will also reduce the out of pocket expenditure which needs to be made currently by the poor people. The elimination will help to fight other mosquito-borne diseases as well. According to the experts, investment made on malaria control and prevention activities will ultimately result in almost 20 times gains in reducing expenditure on healthcare along with bringing down the burden of diseases.
When it will be deemed that malaria has been completely eradicated?
The area will be considered malaria free if it records no indigenous transmission of Plasmodium vivax and Plasmodium falciparum, which are responsible for causing the disease. Once all the districts achieve this, then the country will be declared as malaria-free.
Constraints in implementing
Neglect of malaria and unreliable data:
Though, malaria is viewed as a public health crisis, eradication was assigned a low priority for decades. This has made the current effort ineffective and confusing to implement. In addition to this, there is no reliable data to know how many people suffer from this disease annually as estimates do not take into account the 60-80% patients in the urban area who gets treatment from private hospitals. Although malaria is made as a notifiable disease, penalities are not imposed on doctors and hospitals if they are not notifying.
Efforts taken by India to control malaria are less than most of the Asia and African countries. According to the WHO data, India spends the least on each individual living in a highly malaria prone area than any other country in the region including Bangladesh and Bhutan.
The anti-malarial programme suffers from mismanagement of funds as a result of poor governance by the implementing agencies. Insufficient mosquito nets and pesticide sprays have undermined their efficacies.
Steps that need to be taken to address the constraints
With the availability of medicines and diagnostic kits, the delivery mechanism has to be streamlined to enable access to them. Overburdened staffs tend to underperform. So, more community health workers and supporting staffs need to be appointed and trained to function effectively. Budgetary allocation for the programme in specific and overall health care in general has to be increased. Also, steps have to be taken to create awareness among the people so as to ensure their active participation. Lastly, there is a need for community mobilization and sustenance of efforts to make this program successful.
With successful eradication of diseases like Polio and Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus, proper efforts with effective implementation may help in malaria eradication by 2030 as aimed by NMFE.
Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare J P Nadda has launched Project Sunrise on for prevention of AIDS specially among people injecting drugs in the 8 North-Eastern states.
The AIDS prevention special project aims to diagnose 90 per cent of such drug addicts with HIV and put them under treatment by 2020.
Project Sunrise aims at bringing the people living with HIV/AIDS into the national mainstream and create more awareness about the disease in these N-E states..
It will be implemented in the North East in addition to the existing projects of the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO).
The project has been sponsored by US based Centre for Disease Control and would be implemented by Family Health International 360.
It will cover one lakh people living with HIV/AIDS by giving them treatment and care facilities free of cost.
Other initiatives to be covered it include enhancing capacity of state-level institutions in high burden areas, community mobilization, intervention among females injecting drugs.
North Eastern States like Manipur, Nagaland and Mizoram account for highest adult (15-49 years) HIV prevalence in the country. National average for prevalence of HIV/AIDS among drug addicts is 7.14%, whereas in Manipur it is 12.9% and in Mizoram it is 12%
‘BIRTH COMPANIONS’ ALLOWED AT PUBLIC HEALTH FACILITIES
The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on 25 February 2016 decided to allow birth companions during delivery in public health facilities. The decision is aimed at reducing Maternal Mortality Ratio and Infant Mortality Rate in India.
The presence of a female relative during labour is a low cost intervention that has proved to be beneficial to the women in labour. Pre-requisites for a birth companion
The birth companion has to be a female relative and preferably one who has undergone the process of labor.
In facilities where privacy protocols are followed in the labour room, the husband of the pregnant woman can be allowed as a birth companion.
She should not suffer from any communicable diseases.
She should wear clean clothes.
She should be willing to stay with the pregnant woman throughout the process of labour.
She should not interfere in the work of hospital staff and the treatment procedures.
She should not attend to other women in the labour room.
Who are Birth Companions?
Birth companions are women who have experienced the process of labour and provide continuous one – to – one support to other women experiencing labour and child birth.
Birth companions provide emotional support (continuous reassurance), information about labour progress and advice regarding coping techniques, comfort measures (comforting touch, massages, promoting adequate fluid intake and output), and advocacy (helping the woman articulate her wishes to the other).
WHO stand on labor companionship?
The World Health Organization promotes labor companionship as a core element of care for improving maternal and infant health (WHO 2002). The regional plan of action for maternal and neonatal health care includes the monitoring of maternal and foetal well-being, and encourages the presence of a companion to provide support during labour and delivery as one of the interventions to improve neonatal health.
World’s 1st fast-acting Anti-Rabies drug to be launched in India
World’s first fast-acting anti-rabies drug Rabies Human Monoclonal Antibody (RMAb) will be launched in India.
The drug has been developed by Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) and US-based Mass Biologics of the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
RMAb drug is a human IgG1 monoclonal antibody that instantly deactivates rabies virus by specifically binding to a conformational epitope of G glycoprotein of the virus.
It is 25% cheaper compared to the existing expensive human rabies immunoglobulin (hRIG) treatment.
It has advantage of automatically precluding the chances of transmitting blood-borne infections that are present in rabies immunoglobulin vaccines.
The drug has been manufactured using recombinant DNA technology that includes inserting DNA encoding antigen (such as a bacterial surface protein) to the microbial DNA of cells in the body to stimulate immune response.
During various phases of human clinical trials of RMAb spanning 9 years in India and abroad, the drug was found to be safe and effective.
Generic version of Hepatitis-C drug Harvoni launched in INDIA
Biocon Limited on 24 December 2015 launched the generic version of hepatitis – C drug in the Indian market. The generic version of the drug named Harvoni will be sold under the brand name CIMIVIR-L.
The generic drug Harvoni is an improved version of Gilead’s hepatitis-C drug Sovaldi orsofosbuvir and will come in fixed-dose combination of ledipasvir-sofosbuvir of 90mg and 400mg, respectively.
The sale of ledipasvir-sofosbuvir combination was recently approved by the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI), which is being manufactured in India under a license from Gilead.
Harvoni has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) for the treatment of chronic hepatitis-C genotype-1 infection and it has shown high cure rates of around 90 percent.
Earlier in the year 2015, Biocon entered into a non-exclusive licensing agreement with Gilead Sciences to manufacture and market chronic hepatitis-C medicines, including Sovaldi and Harvoni, for India and 91 other developing countries by paying 7 percent royalty on sales.
According to Biocon, the CIMIVIR-L, a once-a-day oral therapy, will offer a convenient, effective and safe alternative to people infected with the Hepatitis-C virus (HCV).
Hepatitis-C is a viral disease that causes liver inflammation leading to diminished liver function or liver failure.
It is referred to as a silent epidemic as most people infected with HCV have no symptoms of the disease until liver damage becomes apparent, which may take decades.
Chronic HCV infection could lead to scarring and poor liver function (cirrhosis) over many years, resulting in complications such as bleeding, jaundice, fluid accumulation in the abdomen, infections and liver cancer.
It is estimated that nearly 100,000 people die annually in India from HCV infection and co-morbidities. Around 25% of 18 million HCV patients in India are indicated for hepatitis-C genotype 1.
Health ministry approves two national centres on ageing
The Union Health Ministry is planning to set up two highly specialised ‘National Centre for Ageing’ at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) here and at Madras Medical College in Chennai.
As part of the government’s focus on providing quality medical care to the ageing, 12 regional geriatric centres would also be established in medical colleges across the country in addition to the existing eight.
“These National Centre for Ageing will be specialized centres of excellence for geriatric care. They will develop manuals for home care and provide training to the specialists and formulate protocols in areas of elderly care.
“A need was felt for setting up these centres as there is no specialisation in geriatric medicines (in the country). These institutes will also involve in developing enhanced evidence of elderly through research in geriatrics and gerontology,”
The two centres would have 200 beds and also have 15 seats for post-graduate course in geriatric medicine.
“The objective is to upscale the health-care activities at tertiary level so that specialised health-care can be given to the elderly as they suffer from higher prevalence of disease burden including multiple chronic disease with disability and other mental health problems,”
The project is estimated to cost around Rs 477.49 crore, and the Health Ministry has written to the Finance Minister seeking financial support.
NEW INITIATYIVES / ACHIEVEMENTS
Panic Button,GPS to be Mandatory for BUSES
Under the proposed notification, transport vehicles with a seating capacity of over 23 passengers will mandatorily have CCTV cameras that will be connected to the global positioning system and will be monitored by the local police control room.
It will be mandatory for public transport buses to install emergency buttons, CCTV cameras and vehicle tracking devices to ensure safety of women commuters and the government will issue notification on these norms on June 2, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said.
“To ensure safety of women after the unfortunate Nirbhaya incident, we have decided to make it mandatory for public transport buses to install emergency panic buttons, CCTV cameras and GPS-enabled vehicle tracking devices,” the Road Transport and Highways Minister said.
After launching a pilot project under which Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation will run 10 luxury and 10 ordinary roadways buses fitted with emergency buttons and CCTV cameras, Gadkari said that a notification to have such devices in all public transport buses across the country will be issued on June 2.
“We are looking at installation of panic buttons, CCTV cameras and other devices at the manufacturing stage itself,” he said on the sidelines of the event.
Bulk purchase of such items will bring down the cost of the devices.
The ministry had issued these draft rules earlier this month under the Motor Vehicles Act and had sought comments from stakeholders including vehicle manufacturers.
Under the proposed notification, transport vehicles with a seating capacity of over 23 passengers will mandatorily have CCTV cameras that will be connected to the global positioning system and will be monitored by the local police control room.Gadkari said that in case of any untoward event a woman passenger would be able to press the emergency button which in turn will transfer the information to the nearest local police station via the GPS.
Once the emergency signal is triggered, the CCTV cameras will start displaying live footage of the bus at the central control room. Besides, if a vehicle deviates from its prescribed route (monitored through the GPS devices), the system will start sending signals tracking its movement to the control room.
Centre for Environmental Health
The Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare J P Nadda on 19 May 2016 launched the Centre for Environmental Health in New Delhi.
The centre was launched to assess the impact of environment-related problems like air pollution, climate change, pesticide use and sanitation on health.
Key highlights related to Centre for Environmental Health
It is a joint initiative of the Public Health Foundation of India and the Tata Institute of Social Science.
The centre will conduct research across a range of environmental health issues, including chemical exposure, water and hygiene.
Its mandate also includes capacity-building, advocacy, outreach and remedial issues.
The research component of the centre is going to be an important aspect for the government to follow.
Besides, the centre will also establish a policy engagement platform with regular meetings with the government, civil society, academia and the private sector to develop pathways for better implementation of the eco-friendly policies.
About Public Health Foundation of India
The Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) is an autonomous foundation located in New Delhi, India.
The foundation was created as a public-private initiative and launched by the then Prime minister Manmohan Singh in 2006.
It was created with the aim of enhancing the capacity of public health professionals in the country over five to seven years.
The PHFI initiative was collaboratively developed over two years under the leadership of former Sr. Partner Worldwide, McKinsey & Company Rajat Gupta, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and President, PHFI and former Head of the Department of Cardiology, AIIMS, K. Srinath Reddy.
Unique Business Identification Number
Start-up enterprises will now get a unique identity that will help them to seamlessly interact with a host of government departments in another move towards ease of doing business in India.
Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) has begun an exercise for issuance of UBIN for budding entrepreneurs to start their new businesses without any delay.
The DIPP will issue the UBIN for the new entrepreneurs after the receipt of related applications.
This number would automatically be moved on to MCA (ministry of corporate affairs) portal after it is issued to the intended beneficiary and subsequently sent on to the CBDT (central board of direct taxes) which would nomenclature it as PAN (permanent account number) for UBIN.
EC Initiative on Ethical Voting
When you press the EVM button to choose your preferred candidate in these polls, staring at you from the opposite wall of the voting compartment will be the National Voter’s Day (NVD) pledge, reminding you to vote “ethically”.
This prominent display of the NVD pledge – an undertaking by electors to uphold the democratic traditions of the country and vote fearlessly without being influenced by religion, caste, community, language or any inducement — is just one of the first-time measures introduced by the commission under its Systematic Voters Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) programme. Significantly, it takes forward the message of the current EC voting campaigns that have “ethical voting” as their central theme.
Another first under SVEEP, credited for the highest-ever voter turnouts in 15 of the 23 states that have gone to polls since 2009, will seek to address urban voter apathy by ensuring that the elector is engaged through the polling day via SMS and broadcast messages, right from those inviting him to the polling station to ones reminding him of the hours left to vote.
“The purpose of this voting day reminder system is to persuade young voters as well as the urban middle class in traditionally low-turnout centres like Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Delhi to shake off their inertia and come forward to participate in elections,” director general in charge of EC’s SVEEP programme.
The steady increasing electoral participation points out to the positive interventions made by Election Commission of India to secure the same. Free and fair elections attract more voters. The measures taken by ECI to attract voters include:
Employing “Awareness Observer” across the country in order to compile a report on voting numbers and reasons behind low or high participation in each constituency so that ECI can work upon the hurdles
Introducing Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) to make voting process interactive by showing the details of their votes
Introducing Short Message Service and Toll Free Numbers so that people can ask details regarding enrolment process and address of polling station
Live Monitoring of Sensitive Areas to ensure that no mischievous activities are carried at the polling station
Systematic Voters Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) to increase awareness and education about the electoral process
Replacing ballot papers through electronic voting machine to make the voting process easier
Organizing National Voters’ Day, Voter Fest and employing school children and renowned personalities as ambassadors to persuade people to cast their votes
Oil Minister Lays Foundation Stone Of Octomax Unit At Mathura (UP)
Dharmendra Pradhan, the Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gases laid the foundation stone of Country’s 1st its of kind Octomax unit at Mathura refinery. It will help in the production of high octane gasoline.
Octomax, a “novel technology” developed in-house by Research and Development Center of Indian Oil, involves conversion of cracked C4 streams to high-octane gasoline blending stock for production of Euro-IV/V equivalent gasoline.
The cost of this project will be around 43 crore and is expected to be completed by October 2017. The capacity of the refinery plant will be of 55 KTA but it will increase later. The unit on Octomax technology has been conceptualized and designed based on indigenous efforts.
The plan is to further increase the capacity of Mathura Refinery to 11.0 MMT/yr at a cost of Rs 5,000 crore but it depends on Uttar Pradesh government facilitating the refinery by withdrawing five per cent entry tax. Mr. Pradhan said he would personally meet Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav on this issue.
Mr. Pradhan said this is in keeping with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make In India’ mission. According to Mr. Pradhan “Mathura refinery will play major role in meeting government’s target of introducing BS-VI standardizing petrol and diesel by 2020.”
Supercomputer Param Kanchenjunga was unveiled at the National Institute of Technology (NIT) Sikkim. It has been named after Kangchenjunga mountain (8,586 m), the third highest mountain in the world which lies partly in Nepal and partly in Sikkim.
It was formally unveiled by Sikkim Governor Shrinvas Patil at the NIT Sikkim campus at Ravangla in South Sikkim District. It is said that it most powerful and fastest supercomputer among all the 31 NITs and Sikkim NIT has secured a rare distinction of having such a supercomputer.
Param Kanchenjunga has been jointly developed by Pune-based Centre for Development of Advanced Computing ‘C-DAC’ and the NIT Sikkim at a cost of three crore rupees.
The supercomputer is expected to help achieve excellence in research and engineering education in the north-east region.
Supercomputer: It is a computer that can do complete tasks faster than any other computer of its generation. It has high speed and memory and is usually thousands of times faster than ordinary personal computers.
Mobiles to come with panic button
Walking down a lonely road? Or nervous about your cab driver? Help could be summoned at the press of a button. In a significant push towards women’s safety, all mobile manufacturers will produce handsets with a panic button from January 1, 2017.
This facility will allow a person to long press a set of buttons which will send out an alert to the user’s family or friends, besides information on the location. The move comes after hectic negotiations by the ministries of women and child development and IT and telecommunications. “This is one of the key projects that will be funded through the Nirbhaya fund set up by the UPA government.
For existing phones, talks are underway and a plan is yet to be finalized. “We are working towards a software that can be downloaded which will have the same function as the panic button. For those with ordinary handsets, we are talking to manufacturers so that the user can go to a service centre and get the application for free,”
Establishing a panic button on phones was one of the suggestions floated in the aftermath of the Nirbhaya gangrape in December 2012.