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Current Affairs 30 March 2023


  1. Exemption of Custom duty on drugs for the treatment of Rare Diseases
  2. Incidents of hate speeches against minority communities
  3. Ensuring availability of pulses in the domestic market

Exemption of Custom Duty On Drugs For The Treatment of Rare Diseases


Recently, the Central Government has given full exemption from basic customs duty on all drugs and food for special medical purposes imported for personal use


GS-II: Social Justice (Health related issues, Governance and Government Policies, Issues Arising Out of Design & Implementation of Policies)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Points
  2. What are ‘Rare diseases’?
  3. Pressing Issues regarding ‘Rare diseases’
  4. Provisions of the National Rare Disease Policy 2021
  5. Criticisms of the National Rare Disease Policy 2021

Key Points:

  • The Central Government has released a general exemption notification under the National Policy for Rare Diseases 2021.
  • The order gives full exemption from basic customs duty on all drugs and food for special medical purposes imported for personal use for treatment of all Rare Diseases listed under the National Policy for Rare Diseases 2021.
  • The Government has also fully exempted Pembrolizumab (Keytruda) used in treatment of various cancers from basic customs duty.
  • How to avail?
    • In order to avail this exemption, the individual importer has to produce a certificate from Central or State Director Health Services or District Medical Officer/Civil Surgeon of the district.
  • Custom duty on Drugs:
    • Drugs/Medicines generally attract basic customs duty of 10%
    • Some categories of lifesaving drugs/vaccines attract concessional rate of 5% or Nil.
  • Significance:
    • Drugs or Special Foods required for the treatment of these diseases are expensive and need to be imported.
    • It is estimated that for a child weighing 10 kg, the annual cost of treatment for some rare diseases, may vary from ₹10 lakh to more than ₹1 crore per year.
    • The treatment need to be availed lifelong and the drug dose and cost will increase with age and weight.
    • This exemption will result in substantial cost savings and provide much needed relief to the patients
  • Other exemptions:
    • The Central Government have already been provided to specified drugs for treatment of Spinal Muscular Atrophy or Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

What are ‘Rare diseases’?

A rare disease, also referred to as an orphan disease, is any disease that affects a small percentage of the population.

Most rare diseases are genetic, and are present throughout a person’s entire life, even if symptoms do not immediately appear.

  1. Haemophilia,
  2. Thalassemia,
  3. Sickle-cell anaemia,
  4. Auto-immune diseases,
  5. Pompe disease,
  6. Hirschsprung disease,
  7. Gaucher’s disease,
  8. Cystic Fibrosis,
  9. Hemangiomas and
  10. Certain forms of muscular dystrophies

Are some of the most common rare diseases recorded in India.

Pressing Issues regarding ‘Rare diseases’

  • Rare diseases pose a significant challenge to health care systems because of the difficulty in collecting epidemiological data, which in turn impedes the process of arriving at a disease burden, calculating cost estimations and making correct and timely diagnoses, among other problems.
  • There are 7,000-8,000 classified rare diseases, but less than 5% have therapies available to treat them.
  • About 95% rare diseases have no approved treatment and less than 1 in 10 patients receive disease-specific treatment. Where drugs are available, they are prohibitively expensive, placing immense strain on resources.
  • These diseases have differing definitions in various countries and range from those that are prevalent in 1 in 10,000 of the population to 6 per 10,000.
  • India has said it lacks epidemiological data on the prevalence here and hence has only classified certain diseases as ‘rare.’
  • Currently, only a few pharmaceutical companies are manufacturing drugs for rare diseases globally and there are no domestic manufacturers in India except for those who make medical-grade food for those with metabolic disorders.
  • Due to the high cost of most therapies, the government has not been able to provide these for free.

Provisions of the National Rare Disease Policy 2021

  • Patients of rare diseases will be eligible for a one-tome treatment under the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY).
  • Financial support up to Rs20 lakh under the Umbrella Scheme of Rashtriya Arogaya Nidhi shall be provided by the central government for treatment of those rare diseases that require a one-time treatment (diseases listed under Group 1) for their treatment in Government tertiary hospitals only. – (NOT be limited to below poverty line (BPL) families, but extended to about 40% of the population as eligible under the norms of Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY))

The policy has categorised rare diseases in three groups:

  1. Disorders amenable to one-time curative treatment;
  2. Those requiring long term or lifelong treatment; and
  3. Diseases for which definitive treatment is available but challenges are to make optimal patient selection for benefit.

The government has said that it will also assist in voluntary crowd-funding for treatment as it will be difficult to fully finance treatment of high-cost rare diseases.

Criticisms of the National Rare Disease Policy 2021

  • Though the document specifies increasing the government support for treating patients with a ‘rare disease’— from Rs 15 lakh to Rs 20 lakh — caregivers say this doesn’t reflect actual costs of treatment.
  • The Policy leaves patients with Group 3 rare diseases to fend for themselves due to the absence of a sustainable funding support.
  • What the policy doesn’t capture is that these are diseases that last a lifetime adding up to a huge amount of expenditure and many of the patients who can’t afford such treatment will be unable to even make it to the prescribed tertiary hospitals for treatment.

-Source: The Hindu

Incidents of Hate Speeches Against Minority Communities


The Supreme Court recently slammed the “silence of the state” to spiralling incidents of hate speeches made against minority communities.


GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Hate speeches made against minority communities
  2. Recent incidents of Hate Speech
  3. What is “Hate Speech”?
  4. Laws related to hate speech in India

Hate speeches made against minority communities:

  • The Supreme Court asked the Maharashtra government for an explanation about hate speech incidents in the State.
  • It raised concerns on the silence of the State  to spiralling incidents of hate speeches made against minority communities, including Muslims.
  • The court stressed the need to separate religion from politics to get out of the vicious circle of hate.
  • The court also said hate speech strikes a mortal blow to dignity.

Recent incidents of Hate Speech:

  • A spokesperson of a political party in Tamil Nadu said that-‘if you want equality you should butcher all the Brahmins….‘. No FIR has been registered against the person and he continues to be a spokesperson of the party.
  • A video clip circulated from Kerala showing a child being made to threaten Hindus and even Christians.

What is “Hate Speech”?

  • In general, “Hate Speech” refers to words whose intent is to create hatred towards a particular group, that group may be a community, religion or race. This speech may or may not have meaning, but is likely to result in violence.
  • BPRD Definition: The Bureau of Police Research and Development recently published a manual for investigating agencies on cyber harassment cases that defined hate speech as a “language that denigrates, insults, threatens or targets an individual based on their identity and other traits (such as sexual orientation or disability or religion etc.).”
  • According to the Law Commission of India, “Hate speech generally is an incitement to hatred primarily against a group of persons defined in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious belief and the like. This, hate speech is any word written or spoken, signs, visible representations within the hearing or sight of a person with the intention to cause fear or alarm, or incitement to violence.”

Laws related to hate speech in India

Article 19 of the Constitution– Freedom of Speech and Expression is guaranteed to all the citizens of India. However, the right is subjected to reasonable restrictions in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.

Indian Penal Code on Hate Speech

  • Section 295A defines and prescribes a punishment for deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.
    • “Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of citizens of India by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to [three years], or with fine, or with both,” the IPC section reads.
  • According to Section 153A of IPC, “promotion of enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony”, is a punishable offence and attracts three years of imprisonment.
  • According to Section 505 of IPC, “Statements that promote mutiny by the armed forces, or causes such fear or alarm that people are induced to commit an offence against the state or public tranquillity; or is intended to incite or incites any class or community to commit an offence against another class or community”, will attract a jail term of up to three years under Section 505(1).
  • Under Section 505(2), “it is an offence to make statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes.
  • Under Section 505(3), the offence will attract up to a five-year jail term if it takes place in a place of worship, or in any assembly engaged in religious worship or religious ceremonies.

-Source: The Hindu

Ensuring Availability of Pulses in the Domestic Market


The Department of Consumer Affairs Secretary directed major pulses importers to ensure that all stocks available with them are declared in a transparent manner regularly.

  • Amid the rising prices of pulses, the importers were advised not to hold back any stock which may disrupt availability of pulses in the domestic market.


GS-III: Agriculture

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are Pulses?
  2. Sowing Area Coverage of Summer Crops
  3. Agriculture Trade

What are Pulses?

  • Pulses are the edible seeds of plants in the legume family.
  • They grow in pods and come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors.
  • The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recognizes 11 types of pulses, namely:
    • dry beans
    • dry broad beans
    • dry peas
    • chickpeas
    • cow peas
    • pigeon peas
    • lentils
    • Bambara beans
    • vetches,
    • lupins
    • pulses nes
  • They are annual crops that yield between one and 12 grains or seeds.
  • The term “pulses” is limited to crops harvested solely as dry grains, which differentiates them from other vegetable crops that are harvested while still green.
  • Significance of Pulses:
    • They are high in protein, fibre, and various vitamins, provide amino acids, and are hearty crops
    • They are one of the most sustainable crops a farmer can grow.
    • They also contribute to soil quality by fixing nitrogen in the soil.
    • Pulse crops help decrease greenhouse gases and use less water than other crops.

Sowing Area Coverage of Summer Crops:

They are as follows:

  • Rice: About 34.80 lakh ha area coverage under summer rice as compared to 25.26 lakh ha during the corresponding period of last year.
    • Pulses: About 8.77 lakh ha area coverage under pulses as compared to 5.44 lakh ha. during the corresponding period of last year.
    • Course Cereals: About 9.12 lakh ha area coverage under coarse cereals as compared to 5.49 lakh ha. during the corresponding period of last year.
    • Oilseeds: About 8.87 lakh ha area coverage under oilseeds as compared to 7.00 lakh ha. during the corresponding period of last year.

Agriculture Trade:

India occupies a leading position in global trade of agricultural products. However, its total agricultural export basket accounts for a little over 2.15 per cent of the world agricultural trade.

  • The major export destinations are USA, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Nepal and Bangladesh. India has remained consistently a net exporter of agri-products since the economic reforms in 1991, touching Rs.2.7 lakh crore exports and imports at Rs.1.37 lakh crore in 2018-19.
  • A number of trade policy measures have been undertaken by the Government over the past few years to protect the domestic farmers in the country, which include:
  • Import duty has been raised on several imports (from 0 to 10% on tur, 0 to 50% on peas, 0 to 60 %on gram (chana) and 0 to 30%on lentils).
  • Imposition of Quantitative restrictions on imports (4 lakh tonnes per year on tur and 1.5 lakh tonnes on peas, urad & moong per year).
  • Exports of all varieties of pulses have been allowed with effect from 22.11.2017 to ensure the greater choice in marketing as well as the better remuneration for farmers’ produces.
  • Restriction on export of all types of edible oils (except mustard oil) has been lifted on 06.04.2018 to encourage export of indigenous edible oils and their industries.
  • Government has imposed Minimum Import Price (MIP) on pepper and arecanut to protect the domestic growers and their livelihood from cheap import of the commodity as well as to save the domestic industries of pepper and arecanut.
  • Under Foreign Trade Policy 2015- 20, rates of reward under merchandise exports from India (MEIS) were enhanced on export of various agriculture items on 1st November, 2017 to offset high transit cost.
  • Government has recently initiated a comprehensive “Agriculture Export Policy” aimed at doubling the agricultural exports and integrating Indian farmers and agricultural products with the global value chains.
  • Created Agri cells in many Indian embassies abroad to take care of agricultural trade related issues.

-Source: The Indian Express



March 2024