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28th & 29th November Current Affairs

Contents

  1. India Enters Recession: GDP contracts 7.5%
  2. ‘Sea sparkle’ has affected marine food chain
  3. Bhutan gets TX2 tiger conservation award
  4. PM on One Nation, One Election
  5. SC stresses on independence of tribunals directs
  6. India, Vietnam hold bilateral talks
  7. China’s first domestically made nuclear reactor
  8. New species of gecko found in the Eastern Ghats
  9. Ayurvedic doctors for Surgeries: Medically tenable?

INDIA ENTERS RECESSION: GDP CONTRACTS 7.5%

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy

Why in news?

India entered an unprecedented recession with the economy contracting in the three months through September 2020 due to the lingering effects of lockdowns to contain the Covid-19 outbreak.

Details

  • India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) declined 7.5% last quarter from a year ago, the primary reason for which is – one of the world’s strictest lockdowns that was imposed in India to control the spread of COVID-19 – sapping demand for non-essential goods and services.
  • The GDP contracted by record 23.9% in the first quarter (April to June) as lockdown hit economic activity.
  • This is the second straight quarterly decline in India’s GDP, which means India has entered into its first technical recession in records going back to 1996.
  • The government also released the index of industrial production (IIP), which showed that core sector growth has remained in the negative zone at -13.0 per cent.
  • Financial and real estate services – among the biggest component of India’s dominant services sector – shrank 8.1% last quarter from a year ago, while trade, hotels, transport and communication declined 15.6%.
  • Manufacturing gained 0.6%, electricity and gas expanded 4.4% and agriculture grew 3.4%.
  • On the positive side, steel production and consumption gathered momentum, signaling the revival of construction activity. Power consumption and e-way bills also registered double-digit growth in October, suggesting buoyancy in industrial and commercial activities.
  • The government and the central bank have each worked to support the economy, with total stimulus reaching around 30 trillion rupees ($405 billion), or 15% of GDP.
  • The Reserve Bank of India, which has cut interest rates by 115 basis points this year, is due to review monetary policy next week, with the stance expected to remain accommodative for the near future.

Business Cycle

  • Business cycles are fluctuations in economic activity that an economy experiences over a period of time.
  • Business cycles are generally measured using the rise and fall in the real gross domestic product (GDP) or the GDP adjusted for inflation.
  • The stages in the business cycle include expansion, peak, recession or contraction, depression, trough, and recovery.

Expansion

  • When the expansion occurs, there is an increase in employment, incomes, production and sales.
  • The economy has a steady flow in the money supply and investment is booming.

Peak

  • Peak is when the economy hits a snag, having reached the maximum level of growth.
  • Prices hit their highest level, and economic indicators stop growing.

Recession

  • This is a period of contraction.
  • During a recession, unemployment rises, production slows down, sales start to drop because of a decline in demand, and incomes become stagnant or decline.

Depression

  • Economic growth continues to drop while unemployment rises and production plummets.
  • Trade is reduced, and bankruptcies start to increase.
  • Consumer confidence and investment levels also drop.

Trough

  • This period marks the end of the depression, leading an economy into recovery.

Recovery

  • The economy starts to turn around.
  • Low prices spur an increase in demand, employment and production start to rise, and lenders start to open up their credit coffers.
  • This stage marks the end of one business cycle.

-Source: The Hindu


‘SEA SPARKLE’ HAS AFFECTED MARINE FOOD CHAIN

Focus: GS-III Environment and Ecology

Why in news?

  • The bloom of Noctiluca Scintillans, commonly known as “sea sparkle” that the Karnataka coast has been witnessing has displaced microscopic algae called diatoms, which form the basis of the marine food chain, which has deprived food for the planktivorous fish.
  • The bioluminescent Noctiluca Scintillans brightens the sea water during the night.
  • The toxic blooms of N. Scintillans were linked to massive fish and marine invertebrate kills.

More about N. Scintillans and its effect on the food chain

  • Though the species does not produce a toxin, it was found to accumulate toxic levels of ammonia, which is then excreted into the surrounding waters, possibly acting as the killing agent in blooms.
  • The ammonia makes N. Scintillans unpalatable for most creatures, only jellyfish and salps were known to prey on it.
  • N. Scintillans grazes on other micro-organisms such as larvae, fish eggs, and diatoms.
  • But the unicellular phytoplankton that live inside it can photosynthesise, turning sunlight into energy, they help their host cell survive even when food was scarce.
  • Thus, N. Scintillans acts as both a plant and an animal.

Plankton bloom

  • Plankton bloom was reported when the density of plankton would be more than 1,00,000 cells per m3.
  • Bioluminescence was the production and emission of light by a living organism and occurs due to a chemical reaction, involving a light-emitting molecule and an enzyme, called luciferin and luciferase.

-Source: The Hindu


BHUTAN GETS TX2 TIGER CONSERVATION AWARD

Focus: GS-III Environment and Ecology

Why in news?

  • A 1,500-sq. km. conservation area straddling the India-Bhutan border has received the TX2 Conservation Excellence Award for 2020.
  • TX2 stands for “Tigers times two”, signaling the goal to double the population of wild tigers by 2022.

Details

  • The recognition was for the Transboundary Manas Conservation Area or TraMCA comprising the 500 sq. km. Manas National Park in Assam and the 1,057-sq. km. Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan.
  • India and Bhutan are among 13 countries working towards TX2, a goal that the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) had set through the Global Tiger Initiative, Global Tiger Forum and other critical platforms.

The award recognises a site that has achieved excellence in two or more of five themes:

  1. Tiger and prey population monitoring and research (tiger translocation/prey augmentation);
  2. Effective site management;
  3. Enhanced law enforcement, protection and ranger welfare improvement;
  4. Community-based conservation, benefits and human-wildlife conflict mitigation and
  5. Habitat and prey management.

According to a WWF statement, the award was given to TraMCA for efforts to increase the tiger population.

  • The number of the striped cat in the Indian Manas increased from nine in 2010 to 25 in 2018 while that in the Bhutan Manas more than doubled from 12 in 2008 to 26 in 2018.
  • From 2010 to 2016, Bhutan achieved the target with the number of tigers increasing from 10 to 22, one of the most ambitious conservation goals ever made for a single species.
  • Bhutan has an estimated tiger population of 103 at a density of 0.46 individuals per 100 sq. km.
  • The TX2 awards include a financial grant to assist ongoing conservation.
  • The Pilibhit Tiger Reserve in Uttar Pradesh also won the TX2 award for doubling its population of wild tigers since 2010.
  • The reserve is a source site for tigers and important for connectivity across the vast Terai Arc Landscape of India and Nepal.

Pilibhit Tiger Reserve

  • Pilibhit Tiger Reserve Pilibhit district, Lakhimpur Kheri District and Bahraich District of Uttar Pradesh.
  • The northern edge of the reserve lies along the Indo-Nepal border while the southern boundary is marked by the river Sharada and Khakra.
  • PTR was declared in 2014-15 on the basis of its special type of ecosystem with vast open spaces and sufficient feed for the elegant predators.
  • PTR is one of the finest examples of the exceedingly diverse and productive Terai ecosystems (low-lying land at the foot of the Himalayas).

TX2 Goal

  • The TX2 goal is a global commitment to double the world’s wild tigers by 2022.
  • The goal has been set by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) through the Global Tiger Initiative, Global Tiger Forum and other critical platforms.
  • All 13 tiger range governments came together for the first time at the St Petersburg Summit (Russia -2010) where they committed to double the number of wild tigers by 2022.
  • Tiger Range Countries include India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam.

-Source: The Hindu


PM ON ONE NATION, ONE ELECTION

Focus: GS-II Polity and Governance

Why in news?

  • Recently, the Prime Minister of India has addressed the concluding session of the 80th All India Presiding Officers Conference via videoconference, at Kevadiya (Gujarat) on the occasion of Constitution Day (26th November).
  • He raised the pitch for ‘One Nation, One Election’ (ONOE), a single voter list for all polls and also asked the presiding officers to simplify the language of statute books and allow for an easier process to weed out redundant laws.

Birth of the Idea of ONOE

  • Simultaneous elections were the norm until 1967, but, following dissolution of some Legislative Assemblies in 1968 and 1969 and that of the Lok Sabha in December 1970, elections to State Assemblies and Parliament have been held separately.
  • The idea of reverting to simultaneous polls was mooted in the annual report of the Election Commission in 1983. The idea of reverting to simultaneous polls was mooted in the annual report of the Election Commission in 1983.
  • After PM floated the idea once again in 2016, the NITI Aayog prepared a working paper on the subject in 2017.

One Nation, One Election

  • The idea of One Nation, One Election (ONOE) is basically the idea that simultaneous elections to the Parliament, all state Assemblies, and to the local bodies should be held in India.
  • This would mean that instead of having several elections happening across the country every year, elections will be held only once in five years – either in a single phase, or more practically, in multiple phases.

Report regarding ONOE

  • The Law Commission of India was asked to prepare a report in 2018, on simultaneous elections, and their feasibility, by the government of India.
  • The Commission submitted its report which said it was in favor of ONOE – however, it also stressed that simultaneous elections are not possible unless there are amendments to the Constitution, and to other laws.

Advantages of ONOE

  • The Cost of Conducting Elections, Party expenses can be reduced and Public Money can be saved.
  • The efforts of Administration and Security forces can be reduced. This will also provide more time to the Election Commission of India, Paramilitary forces, Police etc., to prepare for the elections.
  • It will help elected governments and ruling parties focus on governance instead of preparing for elections in different parts of the country (this applies more to national parties than regional parties).
  • The Model Code of Conduct which is put in place wherever elections are to be conducted could lead to policy paralysis when it is put in place multiple times in the tenure of the government.
  • Usually when political parties have to focus on upcoming elections, SOPs are given which leads to a rise in the Fiscal deficits. Invariably, Fiscal Deficit which is in relation to revenue expenditure (especially subsidies) will have a negative impact on the overall fiscal outlook of the economy.
  • Although the logistical cost of EVMs will be higher, the report of the Law Commission of India in 2018 on the feasibility of ONOE had told that the additional costs will be evened out on the long run.

Disadvantages of ONOE

  • For holding simultaneous elections, the requirements for Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trails (VVPATs) will double as the ECI has to provide two sets (one for election to the Legislative Assembly and second for that to the Lok Sabha) – hence increasing logistical efforts as well as security efforts.
  • Synchronization between the various levels of government and the houses of legislature will be an issue considering the existing traditions and conventions of the Indian Parliamentary System.
  • If Central and State elections are held simultaneously, chances are that the regional parties will have a disadvantage – as the national issues tend to overshadow the regional issues. When a voter thinks of National and State issues at the same time – it tends to take away the visibility of the gains made by regional parties over the years and favor national parties.
  • The Characteristics of the prevalent Parliamentary form of Government in India will pose a hurdle to the implementation of ONOE (considering the basic feature that the government is accountable to the Lower House and hence, the government can fall before completing its term, requiring fresh elections.)
  • Simultaneous elections are not possible unless there are amendments to the Constitution, and to other laws. Summarizing the changes that are to be made to the Constitutional Provisions:
  1. Articles 83 and 172 of the Constitution, which guarantees five years to every elected Lok Sabha and Assembly respectively, ‘unless sooner dissolved’ will have to be amended – considering that fresh elections will require to be held right after dissolution.
  2. Articles 85 and 174 stipulate that the intervening period between the last session of the House of the People / State Legislative Assemblies and the first Session of the subsequent House / Assemblies shall not exceed six months – and this condition will now pose an issue as there can be a hung Assembly / Parliament, Fall of the Government due to no-confidence motion or even the death / removal of a representative before the end of their tenure.
  3. Article 356, which deals with President’s rule, may need to be amended, as it comes into force only if there is a failure of Constitutional Machinery in a State. If ONOE is in place, then the President’s Rule will require to be put in place for the sake of simultaneous Elections.
  4. The Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, regarding the Anti-Defection Law will have to be reconsidered to increase the surety of continuous governance for five years if the ruling party does not have a large mandate.

Conclusion and Way Forward

  • The Constitution of India provides for a federal structure of governance, and the existence of Central level, State level and Local level of governance has resulted in the entire power NOT being concentrated with one government – But ONOE can lead to such concentration of Power in a Single Hand.
  • To go ahead with ONOE, there needs to be a consensus on whether India truly requires simultaneous elections or not. There should at least be a level of cooperation amongst the existing parties to debate regarding the requirement of ONOE along with the consideration of Public Opinion.

-Source: The Hindu


SC STRESSES ON INDEPENDENCE OF TRIBUNALS DIRECTS

Focus: GS-II Polity and Governance

Why in news?

  • The Supreme Court recently directed the Centre to constitute a National Tribunals Commission (NTC) which would act as an independent body to supervise appointments and functioning as well as take care of the administrative and infrastructural needs of tribunals across the country.
  • The observations by the apex court came in its judgement delivered on a batch of pleas challenging the constitutional validity of the ‘Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities (Qualification, Experience and Other Conditions of Service of Members) Rules, 2020.

Views of the SC regarding the necessity of a National Tribunals Commission (NTC)

  • Stressing on the “imperative need” to ensure that tribunals discharge the judicial functions without any interference of the executive whether directly or indirectly, the apex court said that till NTC is constituted, a separate wing in the Ministry of Finance shall be established to cater to the requirements of tribunals.
  • Observing that setting up of such commission would enhance the image of tribunals and instill confidence in the minds of litigants – the SC Bench said dependence of tribunals for all their requirements on the parent department would not “extricate them from the control of the executive”.
  • The SC Bench was of the view that Judicial independence of the tribunals can be achieved only when the tribunals are provided the necessary infrastructure and other facilities without having to lean on the shoulders of the executive – and, this can be achieved by establishment of an independent National Tribunals Commission (NTC).
  • The Supreme Court Verdict said that the Union of India shall constitute a National Tribunals Commission which shall act as an independent body to supervise the appointments and functioning of tribunals, as well as to conduct disciplinary proceedings against members of tribunals and to take care of administrative and infrastructural needs of the tribunals, in an appropriate manner.

Mandate (Constitutional provisions) Regarding Tribunals

The provision for Tribunals was added by the 42nd Constitutional amendment act which added two new articles to the constitution.

Article 323-A

Article 323-A of the constitution which empowers the parliament to provide for the establishment of administrative tribunals for adjudicating the disputes relating to recruitment and conditions of service of a person appointed to public service of union, states, local bodies, public corporations and other public authority. Accordingly, parliament has enacted Administrative Tribunals Act,1985 which authorizes parliament to establish Centre and state Administrative tribunals (CAT & SATs).

  1. Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT):
    • It was set up in 1985 with the principal bench at Delhi and additional benches in other states (It now has 17 benches, 15 operating at seats of HC’s and 2 in Lucknow and Jaipur.
    • It has original jurisdiction in matters related to recruitment and service of public servants (All India services, central services etc.)
    • Its members have a status of High Court judges and are appointed by president.
    • Appeals against the order of CAT lie before the division of High Court after Supreme Court’s Chandra Kumar Judgement.
  2. State Administrative Tribunals (SAT):
    • Central government can establish state administrative tribunals on request of the state according to Administrative tribunals act of 1985
    • SAT’s enjoy original jurisdiction in relation to the matters of state government employees.
    • Chairman and members are appointed by President in consultation with the governor.

Article 323-B

Article 323-Bwhich empowers the parliament and the state legislatures to establish tribunals for adjudication of disputes related to following matters

  • Taxation
  • Foreign exchange, Imports and Exports
  • Industry and Labour
  • Land reforms
  • Ceiling on Urban Property
  • Elections to parliament and state legislature
  • Food stuffs
  • Rent and Tenancy Rights

Issues with tribunalization

  1. Appeal: Administrative tribunals were originally set up to provide specialized justice delivery and to reduce the burden of caseloads on regular courts. However, appeals from tribunals have inevitably managed to enter the mainstream judicial system.
  2. High Pendency: Many tribunals also do not have adequate infrastructure to work smoothly and perform the functions originally envisioned leading to high pendency rates thus proving unfruitful to deliver quick justice.
  3. Appointments: Appointments to tribunals are usually under the control of the executive. Not only does the government identify and appoint the members of the tribunals, but it also determines and makes appropriate staffing hires. This is problematic because often there is a lack of understanding of the staffing requirements in tribunals.
  4. Information Deficiency: There is a lack of information available on the functioning of tribunals. Websites are routinely non-existent, unresponsive or not updated.
  5. Accessibility: Accessibility is low due to scant geographic availability therefore justice becomes expensive and difficult.
  6. Against the Separation of Powers: Tribunalization is seen as encroachment of judicial branch by the government.

-Source: The Hindu


INDIA, VIETNAM HOLD BILATERAL TALKS

Focus: GS-II International Relations

Why in news?

The Indian Defence Minister and his Vietnamese counterpart discussed collaboration in defence industry capability building, training and cooperation in United Nations peacekeeping operations during bilateral talks via video-conferencing.

Details

  • An Implementation Agreement (IA) on Hydrography was signed between India and Vietnam.
  • The two countries discussed ways to further the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and friendship between both the countries.
  • Underlining the vision of “Atma Nirbhar Bharat” for enhancing self-reliance including defence industries – the India side urged closer defence industry cooperation between India and Vietnam by concluding an institutionalized framework agreement in the near future.

India–Vietnam relations

  • The Republic of India and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam enjoy strong bilateral relations, Cultural and economic links between India and Vietnam date back to 2nd century.
  • In contemporary era, relations between India and Vietnam have been governed by several areas of shared political interests.
  • India supported Vietnam’s independence from France, opposed American involvement in the Vietnam War, and supported unification of Vietnam.
  • In 1992, India and Vietnam established extensive economic ties, including oil exploration, agriculture and manufacturing.
  • The relations between the two countries, especially defence ties, benefited extensively from India’s Look East policy.
  • Bilateral military cooperation includes sale of military equipment, sharing of intelligence, joint naval exercises and training in counterinsurgency and jungle warfare.
  • India also regularly deploys its warships for goodwill visits to Vietnamese seas.
  • India and North Vietnam established official diplomatic relations in 1972 and have since maintained friendly relations, especially in wake of Vietnam’s hostile relations with the People’s Republic of China, with which India had some diplomatic disputes.
  • India granted the “Most Favoured Nation” status to Vietnam in 1975 and both nations signed a bilateral trade agreement in 1978 and the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) in 1997.
  • In 2010, as the ASEAN-India free trade agreement came into effect, bilateral trade exploded to US$3.917 billion by the end of 2012, with Vietnam exporting $1.7 billion to India in 2012, an increase of 56.5% from 2011.

Hydrography

  • Hydrography is the branch of applied sciences which deals with the measurement and description of the physical features of oceans, seas, coastal areas, lakes and rivers, as well as with the prediction of their change over time, for the primary purpose of safety of navigation and in support of all other marine activities, including economic development, security and defense, scientific research, and environmental protection.
  • Hydrographical measurements include the tidal, current and wave information of physical oceanography. (They include bottom measurements, with particular emphasis on those marine geographical features that pose a hazard to navigation such as rocks, shoals, reefs and other features that obstruct ship passage.)
  • The science of oceanography is, in part, an outgrowth of classical hydrography.

-Source: The Hindu


CHINA’S FIRST DOMESTICALLY MADE NUCLEAR REACTOR

Focus: GS-III Industry and Infrastructure

Why in news?

China has powered up its first domestically developed nuclear reactor — the Hualong One.

Details

  • The reactor can generate 10 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity each year and cut carbon emissions by 8.16 million tons, according to China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC).
  • Reducing its dependence on Western allies in critical high-tech sectors such as power generation is a key goal in Beijing’s “Made in China 2025” plan.
  • Work on the Hualong One reactor started in 2015 and there are currently six other reactors under construction at home and abroad.

Nuclear power by country

  • Nuclear power plants currently operate in 30 countries.
  • Most are in Europe, North America, East Asia and South Asia.
  • The United States is the largest producer of nuclear power, while France has the largest share of electricity generated by nuclear power.
  • France, Slovakia, Ukraine, and Hungary use them as the source for a majority of the country’s electricity supply as of 2019.
  • China has the fastest growing nuclear power program with 11 new reactors under construction, and a considerable number of new reactors are also being built in India, Russia and South Korea.
  • Pakistan plans on constructing three to four nuclear power plants by 2030.
  • At the same time, at least 100 older and smaller reactors will “most probably be closed over the next 10–15 years”.
  • Some countries operated nuclear reactors in the past but have currently no operating nuclear plants.
  • Among them, Italy closed all of its nuclear stations by 1990 and nuclear power has since been discontinued because of the 1987 referendums on which Italians voted.
  • Several countries are currently operating nuclear power plants but are planning a nuclear power phase-out.

India’s Nuclear Energy Program: Three-Stage Programme

Stage one

  • Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor uses Natural UO2 as fuel matrix, Heavy water as moderator and coolant.
  • In the reactor, the first two plants were of boiling water reactors based on imported technology.
  • Subsequent plants are of PHWR type through indigenous R&D efforts.
  • India achieved complete self- reliance in this technology and this stage of the programme is in the industrial domain.
  • The future plan includes the setting up of VVER type i.e. Russian version of the Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR) is under progress to augment power generation.
  • MOX fuel (Mixed oxide) is developed and introduced at Tarapur to conserve fuel and to develop new fuel technology.

Second stage

  • Second stage of nuclear power generation envisages the use of Pu-239 obtained from the first stage reactor operation, as the fuel core in fast breeder reactors (FBR).

Third stage

  • Third phase of India’s Nuclear Power Generation programme is, breeder reactors using U-233 fuel.
  • India’s vast thorium deposits permit design and operation of U-233 fueled breeder reactors.

-Source: The Hindu


NEW SPECIES OF GECKO FOUND IN THE EASTERN GHATS

Focus: Prelims, GS-III Environment and Ecology

Why in news?

A new species of lizard, the smallest known Indian gekkonid, has been discovered in the Eastern Ghats.

Details

  • Studies show that the new gekkonid species found belongs to the genus Cnemaspis and in India, 45 diverse species of Cnemaspis have been found, of which 34 are from the Western Ghats.
  • The newly discovered dwarf gecko – Cnemaspis avasabinae is the twelfth species to be discovered outside the Western Ghats and also the first species reported from the Velikonda Range in Andhra Pradesh.
  • This discovery suggests that the genus may be even more widely distributed than previously thought.
  • Cnemaspis is one of several groups of geckos that we now know are very diverse and widespread over much of peninsular India.

Recently in news: Three new plant species found in Western Ghats

A team of scientists of the Botanical Survey of India (BSI) have reported the discovery of three new plant species from the evergreen forest patches of the southern end of the Western Ghats in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

Eugenia sphaerocarpa of the Myrtaceae or Rose apple family

  • The specific epithet ‘sphaerocarpa’ denotes to the large, showy lemon-yellow spherical fruit.
  • The fruits of Eugenia species are known for their palatability and many of them are harvested from the wild with some under cultivation.

Goniothalamus sericeus of the Annonaceae family of custard apple

  • Mature flowers with characteristic greenish-yellow to beige petals are fragrant while the fruits are very showy and an attractive golden yellow in colour.
  • The specific epithet ‘sericeus’ refers to the presence of dense silky hair on the petals.

Memecylon nervosum of the Melastomataceae (Kayamboo or Kaasavu in local parlance) family

  • The species have showy purplish-blue flowers and mauve to purplish-red fruits.
  • The specific epithet ‘nervosum’ alludes to the presence of prominently raised lateral and intramarginal veins on the lower surface of the lamina.

Click Here to read more about Western Ghats

-Source: The Hindu


AYURVEDIC DOCTORS FOR SURGERIES: MEDICALLY TENABLE?

Focus: GS-III Science and Technology

Why in news?

  • Recently, the Central Council of Indian Medicine, a statutory body set up under the AYUSH Ministry to regulate Indian systems of medicine, issued a gazette notification allowing postgraduate (PG) Ayurvedic practitioners to receive formal training for a variety of general surgery, ENT, ophthalmology and dental procedures.
  • The decision follows the amendment to the Indian Medicine Central Council (Post Graduate Ayurveda Education) Regulations, 2016, to allow PG students of Ayurveda to practice general surgery.

Details

  • The passing of the National Medical Commission Act in 2019 allowed for the formalisation of proposals to induct mid-level care providers — Community Health Providers — in primary healthcare in India, who would serve at health and wellness centres across the country, and focus on primary healthcare provision, with a limited range of medicines allowed for them to use for treatment of patients.
  • This move had also attracted strong opposition from modern medicine practitioners, who branded this as a form of quackery through half-baked doctors.
  • Several countries have been using mid-level care providers, such as nurse practitioners, to enhance the access to healthcare, though with strict safeguards around training, certification, and standards.
  • The current debate revolves around the Central Council of Indian Medicine issuing amendments to the Indian Medicine Central Council (Post Graduate Ayurvedic Education) Regulations, 2016, to allow postgraduates students in Ayurveda undergoing ‘Shalya’ (general surgery) and ‘Shalakya’ (dealing with eye, ear, nose, throat, head and neck, oro-dentistry) to perform 58 specified surgical procedures.
  • This was immediately opposed by many allopathic professionals, with the Indian Medical Association (IMA) decrying it as a mode of allowing mixing of systems of medicine by using terms from allopathy (modern medicine).
  • The AYUSH Ministry subsequently clarified that the ‘Shalya’ and ‘Shalakya’ postgraduates were already learning these procedures in their (surgical) departments in Ayurvedic medical colleges as per their training curriculum, and the amendment merely added clarity and definitions to the 2016 regulations concerning post-graduate Ayurveda education.

Can short-term training equip them to conduct surgeries and will this dilute the medicine standards in India?

  • As such, the postgraduate Ayurvedic surgical training is not short-term but a formal three-year course.
  • Whether the surgeries conducted in Ayurvedic medical colleges and hospitals have the same standards and outcomes as allopathic institutions requires explication and detailed formal enquiry, in the interest of patient safety.

Will non-allopathic doctors who have undergone training be restricted to practice in rural areas having poor doctor-patient ratios?

  • As of now, no such restriction exists that limits non-allopathic doctors, including those doing Ayurvedic surgical postgraduation, to rural areas.
  • They have the same rights as allopathic graduates and postgraduates to practice in any setting of their choice.

With allopathic surgeons often unwilling to practice in rural areas, how can this problem be solved?

  • The shortage and unwillingness of allopathic doctors, including surgeons, to serve in rural areas is now a chronic issue.
  • The government has tried to address this by mechanisms such as rural bonds, a quota for those who have served in rural service in postgraduate seats, as well as, more recently, a plan to work on increasing the number of medical colleges and postgraduate seats.
  • However, we would probably still continue to fall short of enough trained specialists in rural areas.
  • We need to explore creative ways of addressing this gap by evidence-based approaches, such as task-sharing, supported by efficient and quality referral mechanisms.
  • The advent of mid-level healthcare providers, such as Community Health Providers in many States, is also an opportunity to shift some elements of healthcare (preventive, promotive, and limited curative) to these providers, while ensuring clarity of role and career progression.

Is it sensible to allow Ayurvedic surgeons to only assist allopathic surgeons, rather than perform surgeries themselves?

  • The AYUSH streams are recognized systems of medicine, and as such are allowed to independently practice medicine.
  • They have medical colleges with both undergraduate and postgraduate training, which include surgical disciplines for some systems, such as Ayurveda. There is, however, a difference in approach in the systems of medicine, and hence models, which allow for cross-pathy.
  • An apprenticeship model for Ayurvedic surgeons working with allopathic surgeons might fall into a regulatory grey zone.
  • It might require re-training Ayurvedic practitioners in the science of surgical approaches in modern medicine.
  • Even then, there might be a limit to what they are allowed to do.
  • Any such experiment can put patient safety in peril, and hence, will need careful oversight and evaluation.

Can this lead to substandard care?

  • Many patients prefer to receive treatment exclusively from AYUSH providers, while some approach this form of treatment as a complement to the existing allopathic treatment they are receiving.
  • For invasive procedures, like surgery, the risk element can be high. Patients have a right to know and understand who their surgeon would be, what system of medicine they belong to, and their expertise and level of training.
  • There should not be a difference in quality of care between urban and rural patients — everyone deserves a right to quality and evidence-based care from trained professionals.

-Source: The Hindu

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