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Insights Daily Current Events, 01 April 2015

Insights Daily Current Events, 01 April 2015

MoU on Cooperation in Traditional Systems of Medicine and Homoeopathy

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister recently gave its approval for the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Traditional Systems of Medicine and Homoeopathy between India and Mauritius.

  • Both India and Mauritius share several cultural, historical, linguistic and literary similarities. Traditional medicine including medicinal plants are promising areas which need to be further explored and can prove to be mutually beneficial to the people of the two countries.

How will this be helpful?

  • The MoU will enhance bilateral cooperation between the two countries in the areas of traditional medicine including medicinal plants.
  • This will be of immense importance to both countries, considering their shared cultural heritage.


The financial resources necessary to conduct research, training courses, conferences/ meetings and deputations of experts will be met from the existing allocated budget and existing plan schemes of the Ministry of AYUSH.

India and Mauritius:

India has well-developed systems of traditional medicine, including medicinal plants which have potential in the global health scenario. The Government of Mauritius also has a long history of traditional medicine in common with India. Both countries share a common culture with respect to the Ayurvedic System of Medicine. Moreover, there are a large number of medicinal plants, particularly those found in the tropical region. These are common to the two countries given similar geo-climatic factors.

Similar MoUs:

The Ministry of AYUSH as a part of its mandate to propagate Indian Systems of Medicine globally has entered into MoUs with the People’s Republic of China, Malaysia, Trinidad & Tobago, Hungary, Bangladesh and Nepal.

Sources: PIB.


Signing and ratifying the Inter-Governmental Agreement on Dry Ports of International Importance

The Union Cabinet recently gave its approval for signing and ratifying of the Inter-Governmental Agreement on Dry Ports of International Importance for signature at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

  • This is a follow up of the Resolution of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) regarding development of dry ports within member countries of UNESCAP, including India.

How will this be helpful?

  • This agreement promotes international recognition of dry ports, facilitates investment in infrastructure, improves operational efficiency of inter modal transport services, establishes guiding principles for development and operation of dry ports and enhances the environmental sustainability of freight transport.
  • The agreement will help in connectivity and integration of the Asian highway network, the trans-Asian railways network and other modes by working towards development of dry ports.
  • There is need to promote and develop an international integrated intermodal transport and logistics system in Asia with its neighbouring regions. The agreement will facilitate and expand international goods transport as a consequence of growing international trade in the region.
  • The agreement will also lead to strengthening of connectivity and seamless international movement of goods, facilitate increased efficiency and reduce cost of transport and logistics as well as extend reach to inland areas and wider hinterlands.

17 countries have signed this Agreement so far. These are Armenia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Iran, the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam. The agreement is an outcome of the ESCAP resolution on the implementation of the Bangkok Declaration on Transport Development in Asia and the request contained to work towards the development of an inter-Governmental agreement on dry ports.

A dry port is an inland intermodal terminal directly connected by road or rail to a seaport and operating as a centre for the transshipment of sea cargo to inland destinations.

Sources: PIB, Wiki.


Cabinet approves gas pooling for fertilizer sector

The Cabinet recently approved a proposal to pool or average out prices of domestic natural gas and imported LNG used by fertilizer plants.

  • Why? To make the cost of fuel uniform and affordable.


  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved averaging of different rates of domestic and imported gas to ensure supply of fuel to all urea plants at a uniform delivery cost.
  • This would help in focusing on improving plant efficiency and might help in price advantage in sourcing of LNG.
  • The move would help bring down the cost of fuel and help save subsidy.


  • Fertiliser plants consume about 42.25 million standard cubic metres a day (mscmd) of gas for manufacture of subsidised urea. Out of this, 26.50 mscmd comes from domestic fields and the balance 15.75 mmscmd is imported liquefied natural gas (LNG).
  • The $5.18 per million British thermal unit price of domestic gas is about half the cost of LNG. Gas pooling would help save Rs.1,550 crore in subsidy, and would benefit 30 urea plants.
  • The cost of gas, which is the most important component for production of urea, varies from plant to plant owing to differential rates at which imported LNG is contracted as well as the cost of transportation.

Sources: The Hindu.


Operation Raahat launched

What is it?

  • It is an operation of the Indian Armed Forces to evacuate Indian citizens from Yemen.

Op. Raahat plan is to deploy all naval ships and four aircraft, including two IAF C-17 Globemasters and two Air India flights stationed in Muscat all together to launch a composite evacuation effort.


  • The 2015 military intervention in Yemen began in March, 2015 when the Royal Saudi Air Force led a coalition of Arab states in attacking Shiite Houthi rebels. This was preceded by weeks of turmoil during which Houthi guerrillas toppled the government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and took over the large parts of the country.
  • Yemen is lurching closer to civil war as the Houthi militants who rule its capital try to consolidate their control over the rest of the country and challenge the embattled president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

Sources: The Hindu.


Gujarat anti-terror Bill passed finally

The Gujarat Assembly recently passed the landmark Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime Bill 2015.

  • The new Bill is a re-worked version of the Gujarat Control of Organised Crime Bill (GUJCOC), 2003, which was earlier rejected twice by the President due to some of its contentious provisions.

Why was it needed?

  • Citing past terror attacks in Gujarat, the state government has raised concerns over Pakistan’s attempts at cross-border terrorism, Gujarat’s vulnerable coastline and the proliferation of criminal gangs, while underscoring the need for a strong law.
  • The government also says that the organised criminal syndicates make a common cause with terrorist gangs and foster macro terrorism which extends beyond the national boundaries. There is reason to believe that organised crime syndicates are operating in the State and thus, there is immediate need to curb their activities and hence this bill.

Controversial provisions in the Bill:

The Bill was respectively returned twice to the State legislature in 2004 and 2008 by then Presidents A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Pratibha Patil recommending the deletion of some controversial clauses. Some of the controversial provisions in the Bill are as follows:

  • Clause 16, which makes confessions before police officers admissible in court.
  • Empowers police to tap telephonic conversations and submit them in court as evidence.
  • Extends period of probe from stipulated 90 days to 180 days before filing of charge sheet.
  • The legislation makes offences under the Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime Act, 2015, non-bailable. Clause 20 (4) of the Bill states, “Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, no person accused of an offence punishable under this Act shall, if in custody, be released on bail or on his own bond.”
  • The Bill makes “evidence collected through the interception of wire, electronic or oral communication” admissible in the court.
  • The Bill provides immunity to the State government from legal action. Clause 25 of the Bill states, “No suit, prosecution or other legal proceeding shall lie against the State government or any officer or authority of the State government for anything which is in good faith done or intended to be done in pursuance of this Act.”


  • Opposition parties have termed this as an undeclared Emergency intended to muzzle dissent in the State.
  • Some say that the legislation goes against nationally applicable criminal laws such as the National Security Act, CrPC and the Indian Evidence Act.

Sources: The Hindu.


RSBY to be implemented by Health Ministry from April 1

Starting April 1, the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) of the Labour and Employment Ministry will now be implemented by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. It was previously being implemented by the the Ministry of Labour.

Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY):

RSBY was launched by the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India to provide health insurance coverage for Below Poverty Line (BPL) families.

Objective: To provide protection to BPL households from financial liabilities arising out of health shocks that involve hospitalization.


  • Beneficiaries under RSBY are entitled to hospitalization coverage up to Rs. 30,000/- for most of the diseases that require hospitalization.
  • Government has even fixed the package rates for the hospitals for a large number of interventions.
  • Pre-existing conditions are covered from day one and there is no age limit.
  • Coverage extends to five members of the family which includes the head of household, spouse and up to three dependents.
  • Beneficiaries need to pay only Rs. 30/- as registration fee while Central and State Government pays the premium to the insurer selected by the State Government on the basis of a competitive bidding.

The scheme has won plaudits from the World Bank, the UN and the ILO as one of the world’s best health insurance schemes.

Unique Features of RSBY:

The RSBY scheme differs from other schemes in several important ways.

  • Empowering the beneficiary – RSBY provides the participating BPL household with freedom of choice between public and private hospitals and makes him a potential client worth attracting on account of the significant revenues that hospitals stand to earn through the scheme.
  • Business Model for all Stakeholders – The scheme has been designed as a business model for a social sector scheme with incentives built for each stakeholder.
  • Hospitals – A hospital has the incentive to provide treatment to large number of beneficiaries as it is paid per beneficiary treated.
  • Intermediaries – The inclusion of intermediaries such as NGOs and MFIs which have a greater stake in assisting BPL households.
  • Information Technology (IT) Intensive – For the first time IT applications are being used for social sector scheme on such a large scale. Every beneficiary family is issued a biometric enabled smart card containing their fingerprints and photographs. All the hospitals empanelled under RSBY are IT enabled and connected to the server at the district level. This will ensure a smooth data flow regarding service utilization periodically.
  • Safe and foolproof – The use of biometric enabled smart card and a key management system makes this scheme safe and foolproof. The key management system of RSBY ensures that the card reaches the correct beneficiary and there remains accountability in terms of issuance of the smart card and its usage. The biometric enabled smart card ensures that only the real beneficiary can use the smart card.
  • Portability – The key feature of RSBY is that a beneficiary who has been enrolled in a particular district will be able to use his/ her smart card in any RSBY empanelled hospital across India. This makes the scheme truly unique and beneficial to the poor families that migrate from one place to the other. Cards can also be split for migrant workers to carry a share of the coverage with them separately.
  • Cash less and Paperless transactions – A beneficiary of RSBY gets cashless benefit in any of the empanelled hospitals. He/ she only needs to carry his/ her smart card and provide

Sources: The Hindu,


Indradhanush Mission: children who missed immunisation get another chance

The Karnataka State Government has said that children, aged below two, who have missed their routine immunisation in the five Hyderabad-Karnataka districts of Kalaburagi, Yadgir, Raichur, Koppal, Ballari, Bengaluru (Urban) and in the jurisdiction of Bengaluru Bruhat Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) will be covered under the Centre’s ‘Mission Indradhanush’ that will be launched in the city on April 7.

Mission Indradhanush:

Mission Indradhanush was launched by the Health & Family Welfare Ministry recently.


The Mission Indradhanush, depicting seven colours of the rainbow, aims to cover all those children by 2020 who are either unvaccinated, or are partially vaccinated against seven vaccine preventable diseases which include diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, measles and hepatitis B.


  • The Mission will be implemented in 201 high focus districts in the country in the first phase which have nearly 50% of all unvaccinated or partially vaccinated children (Of the 201 districts, 82 districts are in just four states of UP, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and nearly 25% of the unvaccinated or partially vaccinated children of India are in these 82 districts of 4 states).
  • These districts will be targeted by intensive efforts to improve the routine immunization coverage.
  • Between 2009-2013 immunization coverage has increased from 61% to 65%, indicating only 1% increase in coverage every year. To accelerate the process of immunization by covering 5% and more children every year, the Mission Mode has been adopted to achieve target of full coverage by 2020.
  • The focused and systematic immunization drive will be through a “catch-up” campaign mode where the aim is to cover all the children who have been left out or missed out for immunization.
  • Under Mission Indradhanush, four special vaccination campaigns will be conducted between January and June 2015 with intensive planning and monitoring of these campaigns.
  • The learnings from the successful implementation of the polio programme will be applied in planning and implementation of the mission.
  • The Ministry will be technically supported by WHO, UNICEF, Rotary International and other donor partners. Mass media, interpersonal communication, and sturdy mechanisms of monitoring and evaluating the scheme are crucial components of Mission Indradhanush.

Sources: The Hindu, PIB.


270 on death row in India, 64 sentenced last year: Amnesty

New data from Amnesty International shows that Indian courts handed down at least 64 death sentences last year, but no executions took place, largely as a result of court rulings. Globally, executions fell by a fifth, and two-thirds of the world has abolished the death penalty.

Details: The study shows that;

  • China continues to execute the most people globally — thousands every year but does not publish any data. Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia accounted for nearly three-quarters of the rest of the world’s executions in 2014.
  • The United States of America executed 35 people, its fewest in 20 years.
  • In India, which saw the execution of Ajmal Kasab in late 2012 and Afzal Guru in early 2013 after a gap of eight years, several executions scheduled for 2014 were put on hold.
  • In January, a landmark Supreme Court ruling laid down guidelines for death sentences, including classifying delay in the disposal of mercy petitions as grounds for commutation, as also mental disability. Information reported by the Death Penalty Research Project of the National Law University in Delhi indicated that 270 people were on death row in various Indian prisons, and eight mercy petitions were rejected in 2014.
  • Pakistan lifted a six-year moratorium on executions after the Peshawar school massacre. Seven people were executed in 2014. 66 people have been hanged since the lifting of the moratorium, and 8,000 more persons were on death row.

Sources: The Hindu.


HC upholds Kerala’s liquor policy

In a momentous judgment, a Division Bench of the Kerala High Court recently upheld the liquor policy of the United Democratic Front (UDF) government that permitted bars to function only in hotels of five-star and above categories.

High Court’s observations:

  • The High Court Bench observed that the liquor policy of the government for the year 2014-15 could not be termed arbitrary or unreasonable. Nor did it violate Article 14 of the Constitution, which guaranteed equality before law. In fact, it was for the State government to evolve a policy, taking into account various factors, including the welfare of the public.
  • The court was of the view that the government had taken into account all relevant material while evolving the liquor policy.

The new liquor policy was envisaged to shut down bars attached to hotels below the five-star category as part of the new government’s plans to reduce availability of liquor. And according to the policy 10% of the retail liquor stores in the state would be closed every year till there is none left by 2023.

Sources: The Hindu.


In Karnataka, learn in Kannada

The Karnataka State Assembly, recently, passed the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Karnataka Amendment) Bill 2015, which seeks to provide primary education (standard I to V) in the child’s mother tongue or in Kannada.

  • However, the Bill needs Presidential assent to become law.
  • The government has left the schools affiliated to CBSE and ICSE out of the ambit of this Bill at present. However, there are only 700 such schools in Karnataka.

Why was it required?

The State Government has defended its move by saying that the Bill was brought in the wake of the State’s language policy being turned down by the Constitutional bench of the Supreme Court. The policy had been turned down as it had been brought through a government notification instead of legislation.

Sources: The Hindu.


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