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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS | 18 March , 2024

Equity in Health: Combatting CVD Among the Economically Vulnerable        

 UPSC CSE Mains Question     

Why in the News?  

A recent study published in Nature Human Behaviour has challenged the longstanding assumption that cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors are uncommon among the extremely poor in low and middle-income countries (LMICs), revealing significant prevalence of hypertension, diabetes, smoking, obesity, and dyslipidaemia among these populations.  

Background  

Traditionally, it was believed that individuals living in extreme poverty, particularly in LMICs, were less likely to develop CVD risk factors due to their lifestyle. This included lower calorie intake, a primarily plant-based diet, and occupations requiring physical labor. However, this new study provides evidence that contradicts these assumptions, highlighting the widespread presence of CVD risk factors among the extremely poor and the lack of access to necessary treatments.

Key Points of the News

  1. Global Study:
    • Researchers analyzed data from 105 household surveys across 78 countries, covering 85% of the global population living in extreme poverty, to assess the prevalence of CVD risk factors.
  2. Prevalence of CVD Risk Factors:
    • Contrary to prior beliefs, significant levels of hypertension, diabetes, smoking, obesity, and dyslipidaemia were found among the extremely poor, with little to no access to treatment or medication.
  3. Equity in Health Policy:
    • The findings underscore the need for health policies and care delivery in LMICs to prioritize the treatment and prevention of CVD among the poor to address health inequities.
  4. Impact of Income and Urbanization:
    • The study observed that income levels and urbanization influenced the prevalence of certain CVD risk factors, such as diabetes being more common in urban areas.

Important Terms Meaning

  1. Cardiovascular Disease (CVD):
    • A class of diseases that involve the heart or blood vessels, including heart attacks, strokes, hypertension, and more.
  2. Dyslipidaemia:
    • An abnormal amount of lipids (e.g., cholesterol, fat) in the blood, increasing CVD risk.
  3. Statins:
    • A class of drugs used to lower cholesterol levels in the blood, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease.
  4. Hypertension:
    • A condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is persistently elevated, a major risk factor for CVD.
  5. Diabetes:
    • A disease that occurs when blood glucose, also known as blood sugar, is too high, leading to serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves over time.

Way Forward

Governments and health organizations should implement targeted detection, education, and treatment programs for CVD risk factors among the poor. This includes ensuring access to necessary medications and healthcare services, overcoming geographical, financial, and cultural barriers to care, and regularly evaluating the effectiveness of these interventions to make necessary adjustments.

UPSC CSE Prelims Question

1. What percentage of individuals living in extreme poverty and requiring statins for CVD prevention were found to be on the medication?

a. 5.7%
b. 15.2%
c. 19.7%
d. 1.1%
Answer: d. 1.1%
2. According to the study, which of the following risk factors was NOT found to be prevalent among the extremely poor?
a. Hypertension
b. Diabetes
c. Smoking
d. None of the above
Answer: d. None of the above


Poll Bonds: 22 Firms Donated Over ₹100 Crore               

UPSC CSE Mains Question    

 Why in the News?    

The Election Commission of India published data on electoral bonds revealing significant donations from corporate entities to political parties, with the Bharatiya Janata Party receiving the highest amount. The disclosure follows a Supreme Court order deeming the electoral bonds scheme unconstitutional.      

Background

Electoral bonds, introduced as a method for funding political parties in India, have been a subject of controversy regarding transparency and potential influence of anonymous corporate donations on politics. The Supreme Court’s recent ruling necessitated the publication of detailed data on electoral bond transactions, shedding light on the extent of corporate contributions to political parties.

Key Points of the News

  1. Largest Donor:
    • Future Gaming and Hotel Services PR, led by lottery magnate Santiago Martin, emerged as the largest donor with contributions amounting to ₹1,368 crore despite being under investigation by the Enforcement Directorate.
  2. BJP’s Share:
    • The Bharatiya Janata Party encashed the highest amount from electoral bonds, significantly more than other political parties, indicating a major portion of corporate donations flowing to the ruling party.
  3. Other Parties’ Receipts:
    • The All India Trinamool Congress and the Congress were notable recipients of electoral bond donations, highlighting the distribution of corporate donations among major political parties.
  4. Corporate Donors:
    • The list of top donors includes a variety of firms across different sectors, illustrating the wide corporate interest in political funding.
  5. Supreme Court Ruling:
    • The Supreme Court’s decision to scrap the electoral bond scheme cites concerns over transparency and the constitutionality of anonymous donations.

Important Terms Meaning

  1. Electoral Bonds:
    • Financial instruments allowing individuals and corporations to donate anonymously to political parties.
  2. Enforcement Directorate (ED):
    • A law enforcement agency and economic intelligence agency responsible for enforcing economic laws and fighting economic crime in India.
  3. Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA):
    • The primary legislation in India aimed at combating money laundering.   

Way Forward  

The Supreme Court’s directive to disclose electoral bond transactions calls for a reevaluation of political funding mechanisms in India, aiming for greater transparency and accountability. Policymakers, political parties, and civil society must engage in constructive dialogue to establish a more transparent and equitable system for political donations, ensuring that the electoral process remains fair and democratic.  


UPSC CSE Prelims Question

1. Who was the single largest donor to political parties through electoral bonds, as revealed by the Election Commission?

a. Megha Engineering and Infrastructures Limited
b. Future Gaming and Hotel Services PR
c. Western UP Power Transmission Company
d. Qwik Supply Chain
Answer: b. Future Gaming and Hotel Services PR
2. Which political party encashed the highest amount from electoral bonds?
a. Bharatiya Janata Party
b. All India Trinamool Congress
c. Congress
d. Bharat Rashtra Samithi
Answer: a. Bharatiya Janata Party

Panel Recommends Simultaneous Polls         

UPSC CSE Mains Question

  Why in the News?

A high-level committee led by former President Ram Nath Kovind has endorsed simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies, proposing a structured implementation plan to synchronize national and state electoral cycles.   

Background  

The concept of holding simultaneous elections in India has been discussed for years, aiming to reduce the administrative and financial burden of conducting separate elections and to minimize the impact on governance due to the prolonged election process. The Kovind Committee’s recommendation marks a significant step towards realizing this vision.  

Key Points of the News

  1. Implementation Phases:
    • The committee suggests starting with Lok Sabha and State Assembly elections, followed by municipal and panchayat polls within 100 days.
  2. Constitutional Amendments:
    • Amendments to Articles 83, 172, 324A, and 325 of the Constitution are recommended to facilitate the synchronization of elections and to enable a common electoral roll.
  3. Election Cycle Adjustments:
    • In cases of a hung Parliament or no-confidence motions, the committee proposes that any newly elected Lok Sabha should serve only for the remainder of the preceding term. Similar adjustments are recommended for State Assemblies to align with the Lok Sabha cycle.
  4. Ratification by States:
    • The proposed constitutional amendments would require approval from the states, underscoring the need for broad consensus among various political and governmental entities.
  5. Burden on Multiple Stakeholders:
    • The panel highlighted the extensive burden that separate elections place on the government, businesses, courts, political parties, candidates, and civil society, advocating for a return to the cycle of simultaneous elections to alleviate these pressures.

Important Terms Meaning

  1. Simultaneous Elections:
    • Holding elections for different levels of government (national, state, local) at the same time to streamline the electoral process.
  2. Law Commission:
    • An advisory body tasked with researching and advising on legal reform.
  3. Appointed Date:
    • A specific date set to begin the new electoral cycle, proposed to synchronize Lok Sabha and State Assembly elections.

Way Forward  

The path to implementing simultaneous elections involves meticulous planning, consensus-building among political parties, constitutional amendments, and logistical adjustments. The proposed formation of an implementation group indicates a structured approach to overseeing this complex transition.   


UPSC CSE Prelims Question

1. What is the purpose of the 'Appointed Date' as suggested by the Ram Nath Kovind Committee?

a. To mark the beginning of the financial year
b. To start the new electoral cycle for simultaneous elections
c. To commemorate the formation of the Election Commission
d. To set the date for the national census
Answer: b. To start the new electoral cycle for simultaneous elections

2. Which of the following constitutional articles does NOT require amendment according to the committee's recommendations for implementing simultaneous elections?
a. Article 83
b. Article 172
c. Article 324A
d. Article 226
Answer: d. Article 226

Gyanesh Kumar, Sukhbir Sandhu Appointed Election Commissioners           

UPSC CSE Mains Question     

 Why in the News?     

President Droupadi Murmu appointed Gyanesh Kumar and Sukhbir Singh Sandhu as Election Commissioners, marking the first appointments under the new Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Act, 2023.  

Background

The appointments come under the recently enacted Act which outlines the process for selecting members of the Election Commission of India (ECI), involving a selection committee led by the Prime Minister. This move is significant as it represents the implementation of the new legislation aimed at formalizing the appointment process of Election Commissioners.

Key Points of the News

  1. New Appointments:
    • Gyanesh Kumar and Sukhbir Singh Sandhu, both retired bureaucrats, have been appointed as Election Commissioners, showcasing the government’s move to bring experienced administrators into the ECI.
  2. Selection Process:
    • The appointments were recommended by a selection committee led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, including Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, indicating a structured yet potentially controversial selection process due to the late sharing of candidate names.
  3. Legislative Framework:
    • The appointments are the first under the new 2023 Act, highlighting a significant shift towards a more formalized and potentially transparent process in selecting Election Commissioners.
  4. Political Reactions:
    • The process elicited a dissent note from Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, reflecting political tensions surrounding the selection of candidates for these crucial positions.  

Important Terms Meaning

  1. Election Commission of India (ECI):
  2. A constitutional body responsible for administering elections in India, ensuring they are conducted in a free and fair manner.
  3. Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Act, 2023:
  4. Legislation governing the appointment process, conditions of service, and tenure of the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners.

Way Forward  

The implementation of the new Act and the recent appointments underscore the need for continued dialogue and transparency in the governance of India’s electoral system. It is crucial that the selection process for such significant positions remains above partisan politics to maintain the integrity and impartiality of the Election Commission of India

UPSC CSE Prelims Question

1. Under which Act were Gyanesh Kumar and Sukhbir Singh Sandhu appointed as Election Commissioners?

a. Indian Penal Code
b. Representation of the People Act
c. Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Act, 2023
d. Constitution of India
Answer: c. Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Act, 2023

2. Who is part of the selection committee for appointing Election Commissioners according to the new Act?
a. Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India, and President of India
b. Prime Minister, Union Minister nominated by the Prime Minister, and Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha
c. President of India, Vice President, and Prime Minister
d. Chief Justice of India, President of India, and Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha
Answer: b. Prime Minister, Union Minister nominated by the Prime Minister, and Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha

Editorial Analysis(I) In Issuing AI Advisory, MEITY Becomes a Deity

  1. Context
    • Apar Gupta, a New Delhi-based advocate, critiques the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology’s (MEITY) recent advisory on regulating generative Artificial Intelligence (AI). He reflects on MEITY’s history of ambiguous legal stances and its shift from providing clear guidelines to issuing vague advisories. The editorial dissects the problematic aspects of MEITY’s advisory, including its legality, the undefined terms it introduces, and the broader implications for technology policy and regulation in India.
  2. Background
    • The Ministry, formerly known as the Department of Electronics and IT (DEITY), has a history of attempting to regulate the internet and technology, often leading to ridicule due to its heavy-handed and imprecise approaches. The critique focuses on an advisory issued on March 1, 2024, against a backdrop of concerns over AI technologies, notably triggered by incidents involving deepfake videos and AI-generated responses questioning political figures. Gupta examines the ministry’s legal authority, or lack thereof, to enforce such advisories and the broader context of technology regulation in India.
  3. Important Terminology
    • Generative AI: AI that can generate content, such as text, images, or videos, that is often indistinguishable from content created by humans.
    • Advisory: A recommendation issued by a body or authority, which may not have a legal binding but implies an expectation of compliance.
    • IT Act, 2000: The primary legislation in India that deals with cyber activities and electronic commerce.
    • IT Rules, 2021: Regulations under the IT Act that aim to control digital platforms, including social media, with a focus on user-generated content, digital news, and online streaming services.
  4. In-Depth Analysis
    • Vague Legal Standing and Compliance Expectations
      • Gupta criticizes the lack of clear legal authority for MEITY’s advisories, highlighting their ambiguous nature and the pressure they place on companies and individuals to comply without clear legal obligations. The article points out the inconsistency and potential overreach in MEITY’s attempts to regulate AI technologies.
    • Problematic AI Governance Model
      • The advisory’s suggestion for a licensing regime for AI models is seen as an illegal overstep, lacking transparency and clarity. Gupta argues that this approach is not only legally questionable but also impractical and vague, contributing to uncertainty and stifling innovation.
  5. Significance
    • The editorial highlights the challenges and dangers of regulating emerging technologies like AI without clear legal frameworks, thoughtful deliberation, or public consultation. It raises concerns about the erosion of democratic norms and the potential for misuse of regulatory authority.
  6. Concluding Thoughts
    • Gupta’s critique of MEITY’s advisory practices serves as a cautionary tale about the complexities of technology regulation in a rapidly evolving digital landscape. It calls for a more transparent, consultative, and legally grounded approach to policy-making that respects democratic principles and encourages innovation.
  7. Way Forward   
    • The editorial suggests the necessity for a reevaluation of the process by which technology policies are formulated and implemented in India. A return to rigorous, transparent, and participatory policy-making processes is essential to ensure that regulations are effective, fair, and in line with democratic values. Additionally, there’s a call for the tech community and civil society to engage more actively in the policy-making process, ensuring a balance between regulation and innovation.

Editorial Analysis(II) Bhutan’s Gelephu Project: A Vision for Sustainable Development and Regional Integration     

By  Suhasini Haidar

  1. Context
    • Suhasini Haidar’s editorial focuses on Bhutan’s ambitious project to establish Gelephu as a regional economic hub, emphasizing its significance in Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay’s discussions in Delhi and with India Inc. in Mumbai. Launched by Bhutan’s King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the Gelephu Mindfulness City (GMC) aims to be a carbon-neutral, non-polluting industrial zone, promoting itself as an investment, health, and wellness hub. This initiative aligns with India’s “Act East” policy and broader regional connectivity goals, underscoring the geopolitical and economic implications for both Bhutan and India.
  2. Background
    • Gelephu’s development is critical for Bhutan to diversify its economy beyond hydropower and tourism, addressing challenges like youth outmigration and the need for more substantial airport facilities. It also serves as a strategic counterbalance to China’s influence. For India, supporting Gelephu offers a chance to solidify its relationship with Bhutan, ensuring its position in the region against China’s expanding influence and contributing to India’s own regional connectivity and infrastructure projects.
  3. Important Terminology
    • Gelephu Mindfulness City (GMC): A proposed carbon-neutral, non-polluting city in Bhutan with a focus on IT, education, hotel, and hospital sectors.
    • “Act East” Policy: India’s strategic policy aimed at strengthening economic and security relations with the Southeast Asian countries to counter China’s influence.
    • Trilateral Highway: An initiative to connect India, Myanmar, and Thailand, enhancing land connectivity and economic interaction among these countries.
  4. In-depth Analysis
    • Strategic Importance of Gelephu
      • The establishment of GMC is a strategic move for Bhutan, seeking economic diversification and geopolitical balance. For India, it represents an opportunity to reinforce ties with Bhutan, counter China’s regional ambitions, and enhance connectivity to Southeast Asia.
    • Challenges and Opportunities
      • Gelephu’s development faces geographical and political challenges, including its climate, topography, and regional security concerns. However, these challenges also present opportunities for India and Bhutan to collaborate on infrastructure, connectivity, and sustainable development projects that benefit both nations and the region.
  5. Significance
    • The Gelephu gambit illustrates the complexity of South Asian geopolitics, the potential of regional connectivity initiatives, and the importance of India-Bhutan relations. It embodies the challenges and opportunities of developing infrastructure and economic hubs in geopolitically sensitive regions.
  6. Concluding Thoughts
    • Haidar’s editorial emphasizes the transformative potential of the Gelephu project for Bhutan and the region. It calls attention to the necessity of collaborative, forward-thinking approaches to regional development, connectivity, and geopolitical strategy, highlighting the importance of India’s role in supporting Bhutan’s ambitious initiative.  
  7. Way Forward   
    • The editorial suggests a multifaceted approach involving increased collaboration between India and Bhutan, strategic planning to address the challenges of regional connectivity, and leveraging the Gelephu project as a catalyst for broader regional cooperation and development. It advocates for a visionary perspective that transcends immediate geopolitical and economic concerns, focusing on long-term benefits for South Asia.
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