- 170 districts identified as hotspots: Health Ministry
- India to receive normal monsoon, may be late in many states: IMD
- U.S. freezes WHO funding over coronavirus crisis, India steers clear
- Outdated census data keep 10 cr. out of PDS: economists
- 11,077 freed from prisons, says NALSA
- Disinfectant tunnels can cause harm
- Analysis| How pandemics have changed the world
170 DISTRICTS IDENTIFIED AS HOTSPOTS: HEALTH MINISTRY
Focus: GS-III Disaster Management
Why in news?
- Nearly one in five districts in India is a hotspot, the Health Ministry said on 15th April 2020, a day that saw at least 1,036 COVID-19 infections.
- The government said it had classified every district into a hotspot, potential hotspot or a green zone.
- Of India’s 736 districts, 170 were ‘hotspots’, defined as places with at least 15 confirmed infections or where there was an exponential rise in cases.
- District Magistrates had the authority to declare regions as hotspots, and a protocol would be in place to check how a district was performing in containing the spread of the virus.
- In order to break the chain of transmission, focus needs to be on contact tracing, monitoring and clinical management.
- States have been asked to uniformly implement the containment plan in every district across the country.
What is a Hotspot in the context of diseases?
- Hotspots have been variously described as areas of elevated incidence or prevalence, higher transmission efficiency or risk, or higher probability of disease emergence
- The importance of spatial clusters, or “hotspots,” in infectious disease epidemiology has been increasingly recognized, and targeting hotspots is often seen as an important component of disease-control strategies.
- However, the precise meaning of “hotspot” varies widely in current research and policy documents.
INDIA TO RECEIVE NORMAL MONSOON, MAY BE LATE IN MANY STATES: IMD
Focus: GS-I Geography, Prelims
Why in news?
- India will likely have a normal monsoon, with a chance of ‘above normal’ rain in August and September, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said on 15th April 2020.
- The monsoon is arriving late in many States and exiting even later, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said at its annual monsoon forecast conference.
- IMD also gave new dates for the monsoon’s onset in several cities as part of an update, which it said was essential for a variety of economic activities ranging from agricultural planning to power distribution.
Delay in onset of Monsoon in states
- However, the onset date in Mumbai — historically June 10 — will now be June 11.
- The onset over Chennai has been delayed by three days.
- A significant delay in the withdrawal of the monsoon over northwest and central India has been observed.
Above normal rain likely
- The IMD’s confidence stems largely from global weather models pointing to negligible chances of El Nino, a warming of the central equatorial Pacific that’s associated with the drying up of monsoon rain.
- The expectation of excess rain comes from a forecast by the dynamical model or the Monsoon Mission Coupled Forecast System — that relies on supercomputers, mathematically simulating the physics of the ocean and the atmosphere.
- The Indian Ocean Dipole, a temperature anomaly in the ocean that can increase monsoon rain, was also expected to be in a “neutral” state during the monsoon, the forecast added.
- Monsoon is traditionally defined as a seasonal reversing wind accompanied by corresponding changes in precipitation, but is now used to describe seasonal changes in atmospheric circulation and precipitation associated with the asymmetric heating of land and sea.
- Usually, the term monsoon is used to refer to the rainy phase of a seasonally changing pattern, although technically there is also a dry phase.
- The term is sometimes incorrectly used for locally heavy but short-term rains.
- India’s geography and geology are climatically pivotal: the Thar Desert in the northwest and the Himalayas in the north work in tandem to create a culturally and economically important monsoonal regime.
- As in much of the tropics, monsoonal and other weather patterns in India can be wildly unstable: epochal droughts, floods, cyclones, and other natural disasters are sporadic, but have displaced or ended millions of human lives.
- El Niño is a climate cycle in the Pacific Ocean with a global impact on weather patterns.
- The cycle begins when warm water in the western tropical Pacific Ocean shifts eastward along the equator toward the coast of South America.
- Normally, this warm water pools near Indonesia and the Philippines. During an El Niño, the Pacific’s warmest surface waters sit offshore of north-western South America.
- During an El Niño, the trade winds weaken in the central and western Pacific. Surface water temperatures off South America warm up, because there is less upwelling of the cold water from below to cool the surface.
- The clouds and rainstorms associated with warm ocean waters also shift toward the east.
- The warm waters release so much energy into the atmosphere that weather changes all over the planet.
Indian Ocean Dipole
- The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), also known as the Indian Niño, is an irregular oscillation of sea surface temperatures in which the western Indian Ocean becomes alternately warmer (positive phase) and then colder (negative phase) than the eastern part of the ocean.
- The IOD involves an aperiodic oscillation of sea-surface temperatures (SST), between “positive”, “neutral” and “negative” phases.
- A positive phase sees greater-than-average sea-surface temperatures and greater precipitation in the western Indian Ocean region, with a corresponding cooling of waters in the eastern Indian Ocean—which tends to cause droughts in adjacent land areas of Indonesia and Australia.
- The negative phase of the IOD brings about the opposite conditions, with warmer water and greater precipitation in the eastern Indian Ocean, and cooler and drier conditions in the west.
- The IOD also affects the strength of monsoons over the Indian subcontinent.
U.S. FREEZES WHO FUNDING OVER CORONAVIRUS CRISIS, INDIA STEERS CLEAR
Focus: GS-II International Relations, Indian Economy
Why in news?
- President Donald Trump said on 14th April 2020 he has instructed his administration to halt funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic while his administration reviews its response to the global crisis. Trump said WHO had promoted China’s “disinformation” about the virus that likely led to a wider outbreak of the virus than otherwise would have occurred.
- India on 15th April 2020 refused to criticise the United States defunding of the World Health Organisation (WHO), saying that it was currently occupied with the domestic campaign to defeat the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
- A source indicated that India was not inclined to immediately join the controversy that erupted after the President Donald Trump declared a “halt” to American funding of the WHO.
- The World Health Organization is a U.N. specialized agency – an independent international body that works with the United Nations.
- The WHO has been appealing for more than $1 billion to fund operations against the pandemic.
- The agency needs more resources than ever as it leads the global response against the disease.
- The WHO’s latest documents show that the United States is its top contributor with around $58 million and halting that payment is expected to hit many health initiatives across the world, including in India.
Functioning of WHO
World Health Assembly
- The Health Assembly is composed of delegates representing Members.
- Each Member is represented by not more than three delegates, one of whom is designated by the Member as chief delegate.
- These delegates are chosen from among persons most qualified by their technical competence in the field of health, preferably representing the national health administration of the Member.
- The Health Assembly meets in regular annual session and sometimes in special sessions as well.
- The Health Assembly determines the policies of the Organization.
- It supervises the financial policies of the Organization and reviews and approves the budget.
- It reports to the Economic and Social Council in accordance with any agreement between the Organization and the United Nations.
- The Secretariat comprises of the Director-General and such technical and administrative staff as the Organization may require.
- The Director-General is appointed by the Health Assembly on the nomination of the Board on such terms as the Health Assembly may determine.
Membership and Associate Membership
- Members of the United Nations may become Members of the Organization.
- Territories or groups of territories which are not responsible for the conduct of their international relations may be admitted as Associate Members by the Health Assembly.
What are the contributions of the WHO in India?
- The WHO Country Cooperation Strategy (CCS) – India has been jointly developed by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoH&FW) of the Government of India (GoI) and the WHO Country Office for India (WCO). Its key aim is to contribute to improving health and equity in India. It distinguishes and addresses both the challenges to unleashing India’s potential globally and the challenges to solving long-standing health and health service delivery problems internally.
- The National Strategic Plan for Elimination of Malaria (2017-2022) was launched by the Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare. Its main goal is to totally eliminate Malaria by 2027. The National Strategic Plan has formulated year wise elimination targets in various parts of the country. It is formulated with the support of the World Health Organization’s Global Technical Strategy for Malaria (2016-2030).
OUTDATED CENSUS DATA KEEP 10 CR. OUT OF PDS: ECONOMISTS
Focus: GS-II Social Justice, Prelims
Why in news?
- Over 10 crore people have been excluded from the Public Distribution System because outdated 2011 census data is being used to calculate State-wise National Food Security Act coverage.
- The disastrous impact of this gap is being seen in the midst of a crippling lockdown, as people who have lost their livelihoods depend on PDS for daily survival.
- Under the NFSA, the PDS is supposed to cover 75% of the population in rural areas and 50% of the population in urban areas, which works out to 67% of the total population, using the rural-urban population ratio in 2011. India’s population was about 121 crores in 2011 and so PDS covered approximately 80 crore people. However, applying the 67% ratio to a projected population of 137 crore for 2020, PDS coverage today should be around 92 crores.
- Even taking into account growing urbanisation, the shortfall would be around 10 crore people who have slipped through the cracks.
- The National Food Security Act, 2013 (also Right to Food Act) is an Act of the Parliament of India which aims to provide subsidized food grains to approximately two thirds of India’s 1.2 billion people.
- It was signed into law on 12 September 2013, retroactive to 5 July 2013.
- The National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA 2013) converts into legal entitlements for existing food security programmes of the Government of India.
- It includes the Midday Meal Scheme, Integrated Child Development Services scheme and the Public Distribution System. Further, the NFSA 2013 recognizes maternity entitlements.
- The Midday Meal Scheme and the Integrated Child Development Services Scheme are universal in nature whereas the PDS will reach about two-thirds of the population (75% in rural areas and 50% in urban areas).
- Pregnant women, lactating mothers, and certain categories of children are eligible for daily free cereals.
11,077 FREED FROM PRISONS, SAYS NALSA
Focus: GS-III Governance, Prelims
Why in news?
- The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) has said that around 11,077 undertrials have been released from prisons nationwide as part of the mission to decongest jails following the COVID-19 pandemic.
- NALSA said it had been providing assistance to prisoners who were eligible to be released on parole or interim bail under the relaxed norms, through its panel lawyers.
- Till now, responses received from 232 districts reflect that around 11,077 undertrials and 5,981 convicts have been released.
- It said the local legal services authorities are actively assisting the high-powered committee, constituted in pursuant to the order of the Supreme Court, for identifying undertrials who could be released on bail during the present scenario.
National Legal Services Authority (NALSA)
- National Legal Services Authority of India (NALSA) was formed on 9 November 1995 under the authority of the Legal Services Authorities Act 1987.
- Its purpose is to provide free legal services to eligible candidates (defined in Sec. 12 of the Act), and to organize Lok Adalats for speedy resolution of cases.
- The Chief Justice of India is patron-in-chief of NALSA while second senior most judge of Supreme Court of India is the Executive-Chairman.
- There is a provision for similar mechanism at state and district level also headed by Chief Justice of High Courts and Chief Judges of District courts respectively.
- The prime objective of NALSA is speedy disposal of cases and reducing the burden of judiciary.
Basis for formation
- Article 39A of the Indian Constitution contains provisions for free legal aid to the weaker and poor sections of the society in order to ensure justice for all.
- Also, articles 14 and 22(1) of the Constitution make it obligatory for the State to ensure equality before law and a legal system which promotes justice on the basis of equal opportunity to all.
- Therefore, the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) was constituted for the provision of free legal services to the weaker sections of the society and to organize Lok Adalats for speedy and amicable resolution of cases.
- Lok Adalats are alternative mechanisms for dispute resolution.
- They are organized in order to settle the civil & criminal compoundable cases in the pre-litigation stage and those cases which are pending in the courts in an amicable manner.
- They are organized under section 19 of the Legal Services Authority Act, 1987 and are given statutory status under the Act.
- The Legal Services Authority Act has been amended in order to provide for a mandatory pre-litigation mechanism for the cases related to Public Utility Services, thereby establishing Permanent Lok Adalats with jurisdiction over Public Utility Services.
DISINFECTANT TUNNELS CAN CAUSE HARM
Focus: GS-III Science and Technology, Prelims
Why in news?
The use of a “disinfectant tunnel”, in which sodium hypochlorite is sprayed to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), may give a false sense of security and cause harmful side effects, the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh, has said.
The Punjab Health Department had, on April 13, issued an advisory recommending that such tunnels should not be installed or used.
- Sodium hypochlorite has a lot of harmful effects on the human body.
- Although a 0.5% solution of hypochlorite, which is known as ‘Dakin solution’, is used for disinfecting areas contaminated with bodily fluids, including large blood spills, however, higher concentrations of sodium hypochlorite (5%) exposure may cause nasal and ocular irritation, sore throat and coughing.
- Exposure to stronger concentration (10-15%) of hypochlorite can cause serious damage to multiple organs, including burning pain, redness, swelling and blisters, damage to the respiratory tract as well as the oesophagus, serious eye damage, stomach ache, a burning sensation, diarrhoea and vomiting.
- Based on current evidence, PGIMER did not recommend disinfection tunnel for prevention and control of COVID-19, which is being installed by many States by diverting meagre resources for their installation and use.
ANALYSIS| HOW PANDEMICS HAVE CHANGED THE WORLD
Focus: GS-I History, GS-III Disaster Management
Introduction to influence of Pandemics in history
- Pandemics have had great influence in shaping human society and politics throughout history.
- From the Justinian Plague of sixth century to the Spanish flu of last century, pandemics have triggered the collapse of empires, weakened pre-eminent powers and institutions, created social upheaval and brought down wars.
- One of the deadliest pandemics in recorded history broke out in the sixth century in Egypt and spread fast to Constantinople, which was the capital of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire.
- The plague was named after the then Byzantine Emperor Justinian. The outbreak, which spread from Constantinople to both the West and East, had killed up to 25 to 100 million people.
- The Plague came back in different waves and by the time plague disappeared, the Empire had lost territories in Europe to the Germanic-speaking Franks and Egypt and Syria to the Arabs.
- The Black Death, or pestilence, that hit Europe and Asia in the14th century was the deadliest pandemic recorded in human history.
- It killed some 75 to 200 million people, according to various estimates.
- In early 1340s, the plague struck China, India, Syria and Egypt.
- It arrived in Europe in 1347, where up to 50% of the population died of the disease.
- The outbreak also had lasting economic and social consequences.
- In parts of Europe, wages tripled as labour demand rose. And once the economy started improving, the landowning class pressured authorities to check rising labour costs.
- In England, the Crown passed legislation in this regard the tensions created by which would eventually lead to the Peasant Revolt of 1381.
- The pandemic also led to largescale Jewish persecution in Europe. Jews, blamed for spreading the illness, were burned alive in many parts of the continent.
- The most significant impact of the Black Death was perhaps the weakening of the Catholic Church.
- Spanish Flu, which broke out during the last phase of First World War, was the deadliest pandemic of the last century that killed up to 50 million people.
- The flu was first recorded in Europe and then spread fast to America and Asia.
- India, one of the worst-hit by the pandemic, lost between 17 and 18 million people, roughly 6% of its population.
- One of the major impacts of the outbreak was on the result of the war.
- Though the flu hit both sides, the Germans and Austrians were affected so badly that the outbreak derailed their offensives.
- It’s too early to say how the COVID-19 outbreak that has already infected about 2 million and killed over 1,26,000 people would change the world.
- But the outbreak has seen countries, both democratic and dictatorial, imposing drastic restrictions on people’s movements.
- The western world, the centre of the post-World War order, lies exposed to the attack of the virus.
- Unemployment rate in the U.S. has shot up to the levels not seen since the end of Second World War.
- Governments across the world, including the U.S. administration, are beefing up spending to stimulate an economy that shows signs of depression. Radical changes, good or bad, are already unfolding.