Budget and the Health expenditure
GS Paper II
Context: The finance minister said in her Union Budget address for 2023-24 that the overall central government budget for health (excluding research) will be around Rs 86,175 crore ($10 billion), or approximately Rs 615 for each person. This is a 2.7% increase over the previous fiscal year and is lower than the rate of inflation.
Government’s current Health spending:
Current health spending is lower in low-income nations than in middle-income ones: India presently spends roughly Rs 8 lakh crore ($100 billion) on health, or about 3.2 percent of its GDP. This is much less than the average health spending share of GDP, which is roughly 5.2 percent of the Lower- and Middle-Income Countries (LMIC).
Health expenditure in India in comparison to other countries: The government (Centre and states together) spends around Rs 2.8 lakh crore (approximately $35 billion), or nearly 1.1 percent of GDP. Compare this to government health spending in nations such as China (3%), Thailand (2.7%), Vietnam (2.7%), and Sri Lanka (1.4 per cent).
How health expenditure affects people especially poor?
A day’s hospitalisation is projected to cost Rs 2,800 in a public hospital. It costs Rs 6,800 at a private hospital.
Financial impact on disadvantaged households is disproportionate: A bigger amount of a poor home’s discretionary income is taken away than from a non-poor household, widening the gap between the two.
The effect of health-care spending on employment and income: When a working member of the family becomes ill, she or he is frequently forced to leave active job, and their primary source of income disappears just when they require additional funds for treatment.
Assets must be sold or mortgaged to fund treatment expenses: To cover treatment costs, households must frequently sell or mortgage productive assets such as land and animals.
Health spending load on vulnerable populations: The poor, old, and sick are already at a disadvantage, and the cost of health expenditure exacerbates this.
Falling into poverty as a result of health-care costs: This lowers their ability to recover even further. According to the WHO, catastrophic health expenses force 55 million people into or deep into poverty each year.
Areas where greater spending by the government could help in the immediate term:
The National Health Mission allocates less than 3% (Rs 717 crore) to noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) compared to communicable diseases and reproductive and child health services, despite the fact that NCDs cause more than half of the total burden of disease, and this proportion increases in both rural and urban areas.
Rural communities are prioritised in public health and primary health care: Even if secondary and tertiary health care services are better in cities, the infrastructure for basic care is inadequate. For example, immunisation coverage in urban India is currently lower than in rural India. A third of the population now lives in cities, and more resources are needed to promote health in these places.
Health research has been ignored for far too long: the Department of Health Research’s allocation in this year’s budget is Rs 2,980 crore, unchanged from last year. Spending Rs 20 per Indian is incompatible with the sector’s requirement for innovations and technology. The majority of the resources granted to the Indian Council of Medical Research are used to support a high payroll of scientists, resulting in inadequate production.
Maximizing India’s Potential: India is on the verge of a tremendous opportunity. Quality education and health care for the 26 million children born each year and the 65 percent of the population under the age of 35 might help India go forward.
Harnessing the Demographic Dividend: While India’s working-age population is expanding, urgent action is required to capitalise on the demographic dividend and perhaps become a developed country within a generation.
Adopting a Competitive Funding System for Health Research: India, like other successful countries, should implement a competitive grant system for government-funded health research to stimulate top-tier research. The Wellcome Trust/DBT-India Alliance is an example of a successful system.
The most crucial factor of what the country may do during the next 25 years of Amrit Kaal is Indians’ health (and education). To guarantee that all Indians reach their full potential, we must discover methods to both find more money for health and greater health for the money.
Source – The Hindu
Two years of Myanmar Coup and Concerns for India
GS Paper II
Myanmar Coup: A quick recap
On the morning of 1 February 2021, democratically elected members of Myanmar’s ruling party were overthrown by the Tatmadaw—the country’s military.
The coup happened the day before Myanmar’s Parliament was to swear in the members elected in the 2020 election, preventing this from happening.
Aung San Suu Kyi, the pivotal leader, was imprisoned, along with ministries, their deputies, and members of Parliament.
India’s continuing policy tightrope in Myanmar:
India has adopted a ‘Dual-Track Policy,’ which effectively involves conducting business with the junta, for over three decades.
Along four northeastern states, India has a 1,600-kilometer border with Myanmar.
It has a maritime boundary in the Bay of Bengal, and its failure provides a foreign policy quandary that it is attempting to overcome.
It has dominated Myanmar with tea and tolerance for pro-democracy groups for all but five years since 1990.
Why in news now?
Hundreds of armed pro-democracy civilian resistance organisations (People’s Defence Forces) are resisting the junta and denying the army access to large swaths of the nation.
Furthermore, some of the two dozen ethnic armed organisations (EAOs) who have been battling the Myanmar state for autonomy for the previous seven decades have joined the People’s Defence Forces.
Chinese inroads: As China, with its huge coffers, emerged as a contender in the area during the previous two decades, working with the junta was viewed as a method to maintain Indian influence in Myanmar.
No democratic restoration: During the previous decade’s “democratic transition,” Delhi had to calibrate this interaction and rebalance the dual track.
Even with India’s narrowly stated national interests: border security management and limiting China in Myanmar, these are becoming clear.
Limitations of strategy: India has stuck to its traditional engagement model of conducting business with the military dictatorship, urging it to restore democracy, and sympathising with democratic groups.
Recent success: Completion of Sittwe Port
Sittwe port, created by India as part of the Kaladan project, was ready for operation in the first week of January.
It will be inaugurated shortly.
Five ways in which India’s calculations have been upset:
Bluff on connectivity: While marine trade was one goal of this project, the principal goal of providing alternate access to India’s landlocked north-east states currently appears to be a bridge too far.
Massive refugee influx: Mizoram is housing tens of thousands of refugees from Myanmar’s neighbouring Chin state. Refugees have entered other Northeastern states, but in smaller numbers.
Terrorist clouds: More ominously, the recent bombing of a Chin militia headquarters on the border with Mizoram by the Myanmar Air Force, with shrapnel striking the Indian side during this operation, sparked alarm in the area.
Another possible cross-border spillover is narcotics smuggling, according to the latest UN Office on Drugs and Crime report on Myanmar (Myanmar Opium Survey).
Supporting Indian insurgents: The Myanmar junta has hired Indian insurgent groups (IIGs) in Manipur and Nagaland to battle the local PDFs and other organisations.
The Rohingya situation is worsening: The military is unable to handle the Rohingya problem, which is another another regional destabilizer.
Way forward for India:
In the G20, India has positioned its year-long chairmanship as a chance to express the voice of the global south.
Extra-diplomatic engagement: India can open channels to democratic forces and ethnic groups; it can work more actively with ASEAN; it can open an army-to-army channel with the junta; it can increase people-to-people channels; and it can offer scholarships to Myanmar students, as it did to Afghan students in a previous era.
Ensuring fair elections: The junta is considering holding elections later this year after switching from the first-past-the-post system to proportional representation in order to weaken the NLD’s electoral power.
Source – The Hindu
Space Debris of India
GS Paper III
Context:The existence of space debris in India was recently reported to the Rajya Sabha by the Ministry of Science and Technology.
According to the government, India has 111 payloads and 105 space debris objects orbiting Earth, all of which have the potential to damage the sustainability of outer space and future missions.
Since the early 1990s, ISRO and academics have been conducting research and studies on the potential and increasing risks posed by space debris.
The ISRO System for Safe and Sustainable Operations Management (IS4OM) was created in 2022 to continuously monitor objects that may collide with spacecraft and to decrease the risk presented by space debris.
ISRO has performed 21 collision avoidance manoeuvres so far to prevent collisions with other space objects.
Furthermore, the government is taking steps to increase domestic capability for space tourism. ISRO, for example, has been undertaking feasibility studies for the Gaganyaan mission, a sub-orbital space tourism project.
The Gaganyaanprogramme is developing several technologies for human space flights with the goal of demonstrating human spaceflight capabilities to low earth orbit.
The administration has also said that all future missions will be undertaken following the completion of the Gaganyaan mission.
What is Space Debris?
Space debris refers to manmade objects in orbit around the Earth that represent a risk to functioning spacecraft and astronauts, such as defunct satellites, spent rocket stages, and other man-made items.
It is a hypothetical scenario in which a chain reaction of collisions between manmade objects in low Earth orbit results in an ever-increasing mass of space debris, rendering the usage of near-Earth space impossible for a lengthy period of time.
Donald J. Kessler introduced the scenario in 1978, and it is seen as a key worry for the long-term viability of human activity in space.
The possibility of a Kessler Syndrome occurrence emphasises the necessity of measures to limit space debris creation and mitigate its influence on the operating space environment.
Important Missions on Removing Space Debris:
- Debris Elimination and Reentry
- Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines of the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC)
- Space Debris Capture Experiment
- Cleanup Mission
- Space Debris Removal System (SDRS)
Challenges of Space Debris:
Tracking and Monitoring: Because space debris moves at great speeds and can be as tiny as a few millimetres, it is challenging to detect and monitor correctly.
Junk Removal: Removing existing debris from orbit is technically difficult and expensive, with legal and political difficulties to overcome.
Avoiding Collisions: To reduce the danger of mission failure, operational satellites and spacecraft must be configured to avoid potential collisions with debris.
Predicting Debris Behavior: Predicting the behaviour of space debris is challenging, especially in the case of a collision or other perturbation.
Controlling Debris Growth: New debris is continually being formed as a result of unsuccessful launches, satellite breakups, and other occurrences. Preventing the accumulation of waste necessitates worldwide collaboration and stringent rules.
Human Spaceflight Protection: Space debris may endanger human spaceflight and astronauts, as even little particles of junk can cause severe damage to spacecraft.
Balancing Economic and Political Interests: The issue of space debris poses significant economic and political issues, such as how to share the expenses of debris clearance and who should be accountable for its removal.
Need for removing space debris:
Active Satellite Protection: Removing space trash reduces the likelihood of collisions with operating satellites, safeguarding them from harm and assuring their continuing functioning.
Ensure Safe Human Spaceflight: Removing space debris will make the environment safer for human spaceflight, lowering the chance of collision and damage to spacecraft.
Maintaining the Use of Outer Space: By clearing space debris, we can ensure the continuous use of outer space for scientific, economic, and military purposes.
Protecting the Space Environment: Removing space debris will aid in the prevention of long-term effects on the space environment, lowering the possibility of a “debris belt” that might stymie future operations.
Cost-Effective: Removing space debris is less expensive than preventing accidents and repairing or replacing damaged satellites.
International Regulation Compliance: International accords such as the Outer Space Treaty, which demands the responsible use of outer space and the prohibition of detrimental interference with other nations’ operations in space, acknowledge the necessity for space debris removal.
In conclusion, the issue of space debris emphasises the importance of continuing efforts to reduce and prevent the buildup of junk in orbit in order to preserve the sustainability and safe usage of outer space for future generations.
The removal of space debris is critical for the safe and sustainable usage of outer space. To ensure the future expansion and exploration of space, the international community should prioritise efforts to clear debris.
Source – The Hindu
Extended Reality (XR) Startup Program
GS Paper III
Context:The list of 120 startups for the Extended Reality (XR) Startup Program has been revealed by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and Meta.
Extended Reality (XR):
Extended reality (XR) refers to any technology that modifies reality by incorporating digital aspects into the physical or real-world environment.
VR (virtual reality), AR (augmented reality), and MR (mixed reality) are examples of extended reality, as are any future immersive technologies that permit an extension of reality by merging virtual images with real-world aspects.
Augmented Reality (AR) does not create a new reality; rather, it overlays digital visuals over the existing environment using a device such as a smartphone or tablet. Instagram filters and Snapchat lenses are two examples.
Virtual reality (VR) is a 3D, digital world created entirely by computers.
Users in VR may be totally immersed in simulated worlds thanks to specialised headsets that can generate realistic pictures and sounds much as in real life.
VR experiences may be created by devices such as the Oculus Rift and the Samsung Gear VR.
Mixed Reality (MR) exists at the crossroads of VR and AR. This technology combines the physical and digital worlds to create complex settings in which physical and digital elements interact in real time.
One example of MR may be a moment in the IRON MAN movie featuring Tony stark discovering a new element.
Retail: XR can lead to new developments that let customers to trial before they purchase. Rolex offers an augmented reality software that allows consumers to try on timepieces on their own wrist.
Remote work: XR may connect employees to the workplace or professionals all over the world in a way that makes both parties feel as though they are in the same room.
Education and training: The usage of XR can benefit students by allowing them to engage in classes from all over the world from the comfort of their own home. Using XR, employees and workers may be trained remotely.
AVGC Task Force: Led by the Secretary of the Ministry of I&B, the task force advocated for a “National AVGC-XR Mission” centred on content production. XR Startup Program in India: Meta and MeitY Startup Hub (MSH) have joined forces to help and accelerate XR technology startups.
The XR environment and its applications constitute a seismic change in human progress; India must take a balanced approach, assessing both benefits and threats. The XR Startup Program is an excellent first step in that direction.
Source – Indian Express
Pradhan Mantri PVTG (Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups) Development Mission
GS Paper II
Context: As part of the Union Budget 2023-24, the Finance Minister announced the start of a new initiative named the Pradhan Mantri PVTG (Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups) Development Mission.
More about the Mission:
A fund of Rs 15,000 crore has been set aside for the group’s socioeconomic growth over the next three years.
It will be released as part of ‘Reaching The Last Mile,’ one of Saptarishi’s seven goals outlined in this year’s Budget.
The PVTGs Mission strives to provide basic services like as housing, water, roads, telecommunications, education, and health in PVTG districts around the country.
The plan adheres to the Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana’s strategic approach, which is need-based and attempts to maximise the utilisation of resources available through multiple programmes while aiming for particular goals.
Implementation: The Rural Development Ministry, the Water Resources Ministry, the Education Ministry, the Health Ministry, and the Women and Child Development Ministry are among the ministries expected to be involved in implementing the PM-PVTG Mission.
Need for Special Support:
PVTGs require more help and development than other tribal groups due to their fragility.
Tribal development funding are frequently allocated to more established and forceful tribal groups, leaving PVTGs in need of more specialised assistance.
The PVTG welfare programme began in the 1970s, and there is a lack of a suitable policy that takes into account their culture, traditions, livelihood, and other aspects of their existence for their welfare.
Who are Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs)?
Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) are those who rely on hunting for food, have pre-agriculture level technology, zero or negative population growth, and extremely low levels of literacy, and are in need of further assistance and development.
Background: Following the Dhebar Commission’s advice, the Central Government began identifying the most vulnerable tribal groups as a distinct category in 1975, creating 52 such groupings.
The list was increased in 1993 with the addition of another 23 groups, for a total of 75 PVTGs out of 705 Scheduled Tribes dispersed over 17 states and one Union Territory (UT) in the country (2011 census), with Odisha having the largest number.
Criteria for identification of PVTGs:
- Pre-agricultural level of technology
- Low level of literacy
- Economic backwardness
- A declining or stagnant population.
Source – Indian Express
GS Paper II & III
Context:Due to Covid- 19, the deadline for the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha Evam UtthamMahabhiyan (PM-KUSUM) programme to develop 30,000 MW solar power capacity in rural India by 2022 has been moved back to 2026.
It is a plan introduced in 2019 by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.
It aims to ensure energy security for Indian farmers, and it complements India’s promise to increase the percentage of installed capacity of electric power from non-fossil fuel sources to 40% by 2030 as part of its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).
The Scheme consists of three components:
Component A: Installing tiny solar power plants with capacities of up to 2 MW to add 10,000 MW of solar capacity. MNRE will give procurement-based incentives (PBI) to DISCOMs for the first five years in exchange for purchasing power from farmers/developers.
Component B: Installing 20 lakh solar-powered farm pumps on their own.
Component C: Solarization of current grid-connected agriculture pumps totaling 15 lakh.
The Centre will provide 30%, the State Government will contribute 30%, and the farmer will contribute the remaining 40% in components B and C.
In the North Eastern States, Sikkim, J&K, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Lakshadweep, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the Centre contributes 50%, the state government contributes 30%, and the farmer contributes the remaining 20%.
Employment Generation: The initiative has the potential to create up to 7.55 lakh jobs for both skilled and unskilled employees.
Increasing farmer income is one of the government’s top policy concerns. PM-KUSUM will achieve this goal by replacing pricey diesel with less expensive solar energy.
Day-time electricity: Providing solar panels for irrigation under PM-KUSUM will result in farmers having day-time stable power, making irrigation easier and minimising misuse of water and power.
Reduced Carbon Emissions: PM-KUSUM will reduce carbon emissions by up to 32 million tonnes of CO2 per year.
Increased local production: Under Component B and C, PM-KUSUM requires the use of domestically made solar cells and modules. This will increase demand for domestically made solar cells and modules, giving domestic solar industry a boost.
Source – Indian Express
Yaya Tso to become Ladakh’s First Biodiversity Heritage Site
GS Paper III
Context: The Biodiversity Management Committee, the Chumathang local panchayat, and the SECURE Himalaya Project have agreed to designate Yaya Tso as Ladakh’s first Biodiversity Heritage Site (BHS) under the Biological Diversity Act.
Yaya Tso, which has a gorgeous lake and is located at an elevation of 4,820 metres, is also known as Birds’ Paradise.
Many birds and animals, including the bar-headed goose, black-necked crane, and brahminy duck, nest on Yaya Tso.
It is also one of India’s most important nesting grounds for the black-necked crane.
Biodiversity Heritage Sites:
These are unique, environmentally sensitive environments with a high biodiversity.
Section 37 of the Biological Diversity Act of 2002 allows the Indian State Government to notify Biodiversity Heritage Sites in cooperation with local governing bodies.
To date, India has 36 Biodiversity Heritage Sites distributed across different states. The Mahendragiri Hill Biodiversity Heritage Site in Odisha was the most recent inclusion.
About SECURE Himalaya:
It is part of the Global Environment Facility-funded “Global Partnership on Wildlife Conservation and Crime Prevention for Sustainable Development” (Global Wildlife Program).
The project supports sustainable management of alpine pastures and forests in high-altitude Himalayan ecosystems in order to protect internationally valuable animals and their habitats.
Source – Indian Express
GS Paper III
Context:Recently an eight-millimetre capsule has been recovered in Western Australia which was lost earlier.
It contains radioactive Caesium-137, which was discharged following the nuclear disasters at Chernobyl and Fukushima.
Caesium is a silvery-white metal that may easily form bonds with chlorides to produce a crystalline powder.
Only one stable form of cesium, 133Cs, is naturally found in the environment (read as cesium one-thirty-three).
Nuclear explosions or the breakdown of uranium in fuel components can result in the formation of two radioactive forms of cesium, 134Cs and 137Cs. Both isotopes decay into elements that are not radioactive.
Caesium-137 is the most prevalent radioactive type of caesium, producing beta and gamma radiation that is dangerous to humans.
Health and Environment Concerns:
When Caesium-137 is handled, it can cause severe disease, including burns and acute radiation sickness.
Because of the existence of high-energy gamma radiation, external Caesium-137 exposure can raise the risk of cancer. Prolonged exposure can result in death.
Internal consumption or inhalation of it permits the radioactive material to be dispersed throughout the soft tissues, particularly muscle tissue.
Cesium may fly vast distances in the air before dropping to the ground or water. The majority of cesium compounds dissolve in water.
Cesium binds readily to damp soils and does not go much into the soil’s surface; most cesium compounds are very soluble.
Source – Indian Express
GS Paper I
Context: Two sacred Shaligram stones arrived in Ayodhya for crafting the idols of Lord Ram and Janaki at the Ram Temple.
What is a Shaligram Stones?
Shaligram stones are ammonite fossils, which are mollusks that existed between 400 million and 65 million years ago.
They may be seen on the Shaligram Pilgrimage in the Himalayas of Nepal.
They are specifically from the Early Oxfordian to the Late Tithonian Age, some 165-140 million years ago, at the end of the Jurassic Period.
This stone, which is mostly found in the Kali Gandaki, a branch of the Gandaki River in Nepal, is worshipped as a depiction of Lord Vishnu.
The stone is said to have heavenly qualities and is a sign of good fortune and wealth.
The usage of shaligramashilas in worship may be traced back to Adi Shankara’s time through his works.
It is specifically mentioned in the Taittiriya Upanishad.
The statues of Vishnu at Thiruvananthapuram’s Padmanabhaswamy Temple and Garhwal’s Badrinath Temple, as well as Krishna in Udupi’s Krishna Matha and Vrindavana’s Radha Raman Temple, are also said to be fashioned of shaligramashilas.