Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- Animals in Drug Testing
- Small nuclear modular reactor
- Kerala & Process of renaming a sate
- Facts for Prelims
1 . Drug Testing in Animals
Context: An amendment to the New Drugs and Clinical Trial Rules (2023), recently passed by the Government of India, aims at stopping the use of animals in research, especially in drug testing. The amendment authorizes researchers to instead use non-animal and human-relevant methods, including technologies like 3D organoids, organs-on-chip, and advanced computational methods, to test the safety and efficacy of new drugs.
How are animals used in drug testing?
- Every drug in the market goes through a long journey of tests, each designed to check whether it can treat the disease for which it was created and whether it has any unintended harmful effects. For a long time, the first step of this process has been to test the candidate molecule in at least two animal species: a rodent (mouse or rat) and a non-rodent, such as canines and primates.
- However, humans are more complex creatures, and biological processes and their responses often vary from person to person as well, based on factors such as age, sex, pre-existing diseases, genetics, diet, etc. – and a lab-bred animal species reared in controlled conditions may not fully capture the human response to a drug.
- Mismatch between the two species is reflected in the famously high failure-rate of the drug development process. Despite increasing investment in the pharmaceutical sector, most drugs that cleared the animal-testing stage fail at the stage of human clinical trials, which come towards the end of the pipeline.
What are the ethical issues in it?
- Experimenting on animals is always unacceptable because:
- it causes suffering to animals
- the benefits to human beings are not proven
- any benefits to human beings that animal testing does provide could be produced in other ways
What are the alternative mode of drug testing?
- The limitations of the conventional testing process, beginning with animals, have led an increasing number of researchers to focus on systems that do a better job of capturing the intricacies of human biology and predicting humans’ responses.
- “Organoids” or “mini-organs” – In the last few decades, several technologies have been developed using human cells or stem cells. These include millimetre-sized three-dimensional cellular structures that mimic specific organs of the body, called “organoids” or “mini-organs”.
- Organ-on-a-chip – They are AA-battery-sized chips lined with human cells connected to microchannels, to mimic blood flow inside the body. These systems capture several aspects of human physiology, including tissue-tissue interactions and physical and chemical signals inside the body.
- Additive Manufacturing – In 2003, researchers developed the first inkjet bioprinter by modifying a standard inkjet printer. Several innovations in the last decade now allow a 3D bioprinter to ‘print’ biological tissues using human cells and fluids as ‘bio-ink’. Such technologies, are bringing us closer to recreating a human tissue or organ system in the laboratory.
- These systems promise to reshape drug-design and -development. Since they can be built using patient-specific cells, they can also be used to personalize drug-tests.
What are the challenges in adopting this technology?
- One problem is that developing an organ-on-a-chip system typically requires multidisciplinary knowledge. This means expertise in cell biology to recreate the cellular behaviour in the lab; materials science to find the right material to ensure that the chip does not interfere with biological processes; fluid dynamics to mimic blood flow inside the micro channels; electronics to integrate biosensors that can measure pH, oxygen etc.in the chip; engineering to design the chip; and pharmacology and toxicology to interpret action of the drugs in the chips.
- Another important concern is the resources needed for research.
Steps taken to reduce the impact of research on Animals
- The three Rs are a set of principles that scientists are encouraged to follow in order to reduce the impact of research on animals. The three Rs are: Reduction, Refinement, Replacement.
- Reducing the number of animals used in experiments by:
- Improving experimental techniques
- Improving techniques of data analysis
- Sharing information with other researchers
- Refining the experiment or the way the animals are cared for so as to reduce their suffering by:
- Using less invasive techniques
- Better medical care
- Better living conditions
- Replacing experiments on animals with alternative techniques such as:
- Experimenting on cell cultures instead of whole animals
- Using computer models
- Studying human volunteers
- Using epidemiological studies
What is the status of regulation in worldwide?
- In 2021, the European Union passed a resolution on an action plan to facilitate transition towards technologies that don’t use animals in research, regulatory testing, and education. The U.S. passed the FDA Modernization Act 2.0 in December 2022, allowing researchers to use these systems to test the safety and efficacy of new drugs.
- South Korea introduced a Bill called ‘Vitalization of Development, Dissemination, and Use of Alternatives to Animal Testing Methods’.
- Canada amended its Environmental Protection Act to replace, reduce or refine the use of vertebrate animals in toxicity testing.
- The Indian government embraced these systems in the drug-development pipeline by amending the New Drugs and Clinical Trials Rules 2019.
2 . Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana
Context: With the Centre’s flagship health insurance scheme taking fire over irregularities exposed by the Comptroller and Auditor-General this week, the Health Ministry defended the scheme, saying that mobile numbers did not play any role in the verification of its beneficiaries.
About the News
- The CAG’s performance audit report, tabled in the Lok Sabha on Monday, noted multiple cases of the Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) providing treatment for patients who had been declared dead, as well as for thousands of people using the same Aadhaar or invalid mobile phone number.
- For instance, almost 7.5 lakh people in the scheme’s beneficiary database were linked with a single cellphone number: 9999999999. In Tamil Nadu, 4,761 registrations were made against just seven Aadhaar numbers.
- Health Ministry reply- Health Ministry said that the scheme only used mobile numbers to reach out to the beneficiaries in case of any need and for collecting feedback regarding the treatment, rather than for any verification purposes.
- It explained that treatment to beneficiaries could not be withheld just because they do not carry a valid mobile number, or the mobile number had changed.
- On the use of the same mobile number by multiple beneficiaries, the Ministry noted that initially it was not a mandatory field during beneficiary verification, and therefore, mobile number was not validated in the process.
- This would not impact either the correctness of the beneficiary verification process or the validity of the beneficiaries’ claim, it said. Necessary changes have been made in the current IT portal used by the National Health Authority to capture only valid mobile numbers, in case the same is possessed by the beneficiary
- Ayushman Bharat, a flagship scheme of Government of India, was launched as recommended by the National Health Policy 2017, to achieve the vision of Universal Health Coverage (UHC). This initiative has been designed to meet Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and its underlining commitment, which is to “leave no one behind.”
- Ayushman Bharat is an attempt to move from sectoral and segmented approach of health service delivery to a comprehensive need-based health care service. This scheme aims to undertake path breaking interventions to holistically address the healthcare system (covering prevention, promotion and ambulatory care) at the primary, secondary and tertiary level. Ayushman Bharat adopts a continuum of care approach, comprising of two inter-related components, which are –
- Health and Wellness Centres (HWCs)
- Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY)
Health and Wellness Centers (HWCs)
- In February 2018, the Government of India announced the creation of 1,50,000 Health and Wellness Centres (HWCs) by transforming the existing Sub Centres and Primary Health Centres. These centres are to deliver Comprehensive Primary Health Care (CPHC) bringing healthcare closer to the homes of people. They cover both, maternal and child health services and non-communicable diseases, including free essential drugs and diagnostic services.
- Health and Wellness Centers are envisaged to deliver an expanded range of services to address the primary health care needs of the entire population in their area, expanding access, universality and equity close to the community. The emphasis of health promotion and prevention is designed to bring focus on keeping people healthy by engaging and empowering individuals and communities to choose healthy behaviours and make changes that reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases and morbidities.
Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY)
- The second component under Ayushman Bharat is the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojna or PM-JAY as it is popularly known. This scheme was launched on 23rd September, 2018 in Ranchi, Jharkhand by the Prime Minister of India
- Ayushman Bharat PM-JAY is the largest health assurance scheme in the world which aims at providing a health cover of Rs. 5 lakhs per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization to over 12 crores poor and vulnerable families (approximately 55 crore beneficiaries) that form the bottom 40% of the Indian population.
- The households included are based on the deprivation and occupational criteria of Socio-Economic Caste Census 2011 (SECC 2011) for rural and urban areas respectively. PM-JAY was earlier known as the National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS) before being rechristened.
- It subsumed the then existing Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) which had been launched in 2008. The coverage mentioned under PM-JAY, therefore, also includes families that were covered in RSBY but are not present in the SECC 2011 database.
- PM-JAY is fully funded by the Government and cost of implementation is shared between the Central and State Governments.
Key Features of PM-JAY
- PM-JAY is the world’s largest health insurance/ assurance scheme fully financed by the government.
- It provides a cover of Rs. 5 lakhs per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization across public and private empanelled hospitals in India.
- Over 12 crore poor and vulnerable entitled families (approximately 55 crore beneficiaries) are eligible for these benefits.
- PM-JAY provides cashless access to health care services for the beneficiary at the point of service, that is, the hospital.
- PM-JAY envisions to help mitigate catastrophic expenditure on medical treatment which pushes nearly 6 crore Indians into poverty each year.
- It covers up to 3 days of pre-hospitalization and 15 days post-hospitalization expenses such as diagnostics and medicines.
- There is no restriction on the family size, age or gender.
- All pre–existing conditions are covered from day one.
- Benefits of the scheme are portable across the country i.e. a beneficiary can visit any empanelled public or private hospital in India to avail cashless treatment.
- Services include approximately 1,929 procedures covering all the costs related to treatment, including but not limited to drugs, supplies, diagnostic services, physician’s fees, room charges, surgeon charges, OT and ICU charges etc.
- Public hospitals are reimbursed for the healthcare services at par with the private hospitals.
Benefit Cover Under PM-JAY
- Benefit cover under various Government-funded health insurance schemes in India have always been structured on an upper ceiling limit ranging from an annual cover of INR30,000 to INR3,00,000 per family across various States which created a fragmented system. PM-JAY provides cashless cover of up to INR5,00,000 to each eligible family per annum for listed secondary and tertiary care conditions. The cover under the scheme includes all expenses incurred on the following components of the treatment.
- Medical examination, treatment and consultation
- Medicine and medical consumables
- Non-intensive and intensive care services
- Diagnostic and laboratory investigations
- Medical implantation services (where necessary)
- Accommodation benefits
- Food services
- Complications arising during treatment
- Post-hospitalization follow-up care up to 15 days.
3 . Small Nuclear Modular reactor
Context: The world’s quest to decarbonise itself is guided, among other things, by the UN Sustainable Development Goal 7: “to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”. Since the world still depends on fossil fuels for 82% of its energy supply, decarbonising the power sector is critical; the share of electricity in final energy consumption will also increase by 80%-150% by 2050. Small modular reactors — a type of nuclear reactor — can be helpful to India in this regard.
What are the challenges of decarbonisation?
- Lack of Affordability- The transition from coal-fired power generation to clean energy poses major challenges, and there is a widespread consensus among policymakers in several countries that solar and wind energy alone will not suffice to provide affordable energy for everyone. In decarbonized electricity systems with a significant share of renewable energy, the addition of at least one firm power-generating technology can improve grid reliability and reduce costs.
- Unavailability of resources- According to the International Energy Agency, the demand for critical minerals like lithium, nickel, cobalt, and rare earth elements, required for clean-energy production technologies, is likely to increase by up to 3.5 times by 2030. This jump poses several global challenges, including the large capital investments to develop new mines and processing facilities.
- The environmental and social impacts of developing several new mines and plants in China, Indonesia, Africa, and South America within a short time span, coupled with the fact that the top three mineral-producing and mineral-processing nations control 50-100% of the current global extraction and processing capacities, pose geopolitical and other risks.
What are the issues with nuclear power?
- Nuclear power plants (NPPs) generate 10% of the world’s electricity and help it avoid 180 billion cubic metres of natural gas demand and 1.5 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions every year. Any less nuclear power could make the world’s journey towards net-zero more challenging and more expensive.
- NPPs are efficient users of land and their grid integration costs are lower than those associated with variable renewable energy (VRE) sources because NPPs generate power 24×7 in all kinds of weather. Nuclear power also provides valuable co-benefits like high-skill jobs in technology, manufacturing, and operations.
- The conventional NPPs have generally suffered from time and cost overruns. As an alternative, several countries are developing small modular reactors (SMRs) — nuclear reactors with a maximum capacity of 300 MW — to complement conventional NPPs.
What is Small Modular reactors?
- Small modular reactors (SMRs) are advanced nuclear reactors that have a power capacity of up to 300 MW(e) per unit, which is about one-third of the generating capacity of traditional nuclear power reactors. SMRs, which can produce a large amount of low-carbon electricity, are:
- Small – physically a fraction of the size of a conventional nuclear power reactor.
- Modular – making it possible for systems and components to be factory-assembled and transported as a unit to a location for installation.
- Reactors – harnessing nuclear fission to generate heat to produce energy.
- SMRs can be installed in decommissioned thermal power plant sites by repurposing existing infrastructure, thus sparing the host country from having to acquire more land and/or displace people beyond the existing site boundary.
What are the advantages of SMRs?
- SMRs are designed with a smaller core damage frequency (the likelihood that an accident will damage the nuclear fuel) and source term (a measure of radioactive contamination) compared to conventional NPPs. They also include enhanced seismic isolation for more safety.
- SMR designs are also simpler than those of conventional NPPs and include several passive safety features, resulting in a lower potential for the uncontrolled release of radioactive materials into the environment.
- The amount of spent nuclear fuel stored in an SMR project will also be lower than that in a conventional NPP.
- Studies have found that SMRs can be safely installed and operated at several brownfield sites that may not meet the more stringent zoning requirements for conventional NPPs.
- Accelerating the deployment of SMRs under international safeguards, by implementing a coal-to-nuclear transition at existing thermal power-plant sites, will take India closer to net-zero and improve energy security because uranium resources are not as concentrated as reserves of critical minerals.
- SMRs are mostly manufactured in a factory and assembled on site, the potential for time and cost overruns is also lower. The serial manufacture of SMRs can reduce costs by simplifying plant design to facilitate more efficient regulatory approvals and experiential learning with serial manufacturing.
What is the need for an efficient regulatory regime?
- An efficient regulatory regime comparable to that in the civil aviation sector — which has more stringent safety requirements — is important if SMRs are to play a meaningful role in decarbonising the power sector. This can be achieved if all countries that accept nuclear energy direct their respective regulators to cooperate amongst themselves and with the International Atomic Energy Agency to harmonise their regulatory requirements and expedite statutory approvals for SMRs based on standard, universal designs.
How can SMRs be integrated with the national grid?
- India’s Central Electricity Authority (CEA) projects that the generation capacity of coal-based thermal power plants (TPPs) in India must be increased to 259,000 MW by 2032 from the current 212,000 MW, while enhancing the generation capacity of VRE sources to 486,000 MW from 130,000 MW. Integrating this power from VRE sources with the national grid will require additional energy storage — to the tune of 47,000 MW/236 GWh with batteries and 27,000 MW from hydroelectric facilities
- The CEA also projects that Thermal Power Plants will provide more than half of the electricity generated in India by 2031-2032 while Variable Renewable Energy sources and Nuclear Power Plants will contribute 35% and 4.4%, respectively. Since India has committed to become net-zero by 2070, the country’s nuclear power output needs a quantum jump. Since the large investments required for NPP expansion can’t come from the government alone, attracting investments from the private sector (in PPP mode) is important to decarbonise India’s energy sector.
What are the legal and regulatory changes required?
- The Atomic Energy Act will need to be amended to allow the private sector to set up SMRs. To ensure safety, security, and safeguards, control of nuclear fuel and radioactive waste must continue to lie with the Government of India. The government will also have to enact a law to create an independent, empowered regulatory board with the expertise and capacity to oversee every stage of the nuclear power generation cycle.
- The security around SMRs must remain under government control, while the Nuclear Power Corporation can operate privately-owned SMRs during the hand-holding process.
- Finally, the Department of Atomic Energy must improve the public perception of nuclear power in India by better disseminating comprehensive environmental and public health data of the civilian reactors, which are operating under international safeguards, in India.
4 . Kerala and Process of Renaming a state
Context: The Kerala Assembly passed a resolution urging the Centre to rename the state as “Keralam” in the Constitution and all office records.
Origin of Name Kerala
- There are several theories about the origin of the name ‘Kerala’. The earliest epigraphic record that mentions Kerala is emperor Asoka’s Rock Edict II of 257 BC. The inscription refers to the local ruler as Keralaputra (Sanskrit for “son of Kerala”), and also “son of Chera” referring to the Chera dynasty.
- About ‘Keralam’, scholars believe it could have originated from ‘Cheram’. The origin of the term could possibly be from the root ‘cher’, which means to join. This meaning is clear in the compound word ‘Cheralam’, in which alam means region or land.
Demands for the modern state
- The people speaking Malayalam had been ruled by various kings and princely states in the region. It was in the 1920s that the Aikya (unified) Kerala movement gathered momentum and a demand for a separate state for Malayalam-speaking people came up. It aimed at the integration of Malabar, Kochi and Travancore into one territory.
- The Keralites who spoke the same language, shared common cultural traditions, and were unified by the same history, rituals and customs were inspired by the freedom movement to ask for unification and integration.
The state of Kerala after 1947
- The merger and integration of princely states was a major step towards the formation of the state of Kerala after Independence. On 1 July, 1949, the two states of Travancore and Kochi were integrated, heralding the birth of the Travancore-Cochin State.
- When it was decided to reorganise states on a linguistic basis, the State Reorganisation Commission of the Union Government recommended creation of the state of Kerala.
- The Commission under Syed Fazl Ali recommended the inclusion of the district of Malabar and the taluk of Kasargod to the Malayalam-speaking people’s state.
- It also recommended the exclusion of the four Southern taluks of Travancore viz Tovala, Agastheeswaram, Kalkulam and Vilayankode together with some parts of Shenkottai (all these taluks now part of Tamil Nadu).
- The state of Kerala came into being on November 1, 1956. In Malayalam, the state was referred to as Keralam, while in English it was Kerala.
What is the process to rename a state in India?
- The Parliament has the power to change the name of a state. The Constitution of India gives the parliament power to alter the name of a state under Article 3.
- Article 3 of the Constitution explicitly lays down a procedure to alter the area, boundaries, or name of a state. The procedure to be followed for changing the name of a state is:
- The Parliament may present a bill for such alterations. In Parliament, the bill cannot be presented without a recommendation from the President.
- States which are going to get affected by such changes, the legislation of that state must be presented with the bill. The State Legislature may present its views on the bill within the prescribed time period. The views or suggestions of the State Legislature are not enforceable against the President or The Parliament.
- Although it may seem the step of no value, it is essential to maintain the spirit of federalism. It is necessary to consult the state as it will be affecting it.
- After receiving the suggestions of the State Legislative Assembly or after the expiration of the limited time period the bill goes back to the Parliament. Then the bill gets further deliberated upon in the Parliament.
- The bill like any ordinary bill must be passed with a simple majority of 50%+1 vote.
- The bill is next sent for ratification to the President. After the approval is given by the President. He shall sign the bill and the bill will become an Act.
Process to Change the name – State Initiated
- Proposal and Resolution: The state government initiates the process by proposing a new name for the state. This proposal is usually introduced in the state legislative assembly in the form of a resolution.
- Discussion and Approval: The resolution is debated and discussed by the members of the state legislative assembly. A majority vote is typically required for the resolution to be approved. If the resolution is passed, it indicates the state government’s desire to change the state’s name.
- Central Government’s Approval: The resolution, along with a formal request from the state government, is forwarded to the central government (specifically, the Ministry of Home Affairs). The central government reviews the proposal and assesses its merits, taking into consideration factors such as historical, cultural, and linguistic significance.
- Constitutional Amendment (if required): If changing the state’s name involves altering its name in the First Schedule of the Constitution, a constitutional amendment may be required. The central government would introduce the necessary bill in the Parliament, and both houses of Parliament (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha) would need to pass the bill with a special majority (a majority of the total membership of each house and a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members present and voting).
- President’s Assent: Once the proposal receives approval from both houses of Parliament (if required), the bill is sent to the President of India for assent. The President’s assent is the final step in the legislative process.
- Implementation and Administrative Changes: After receiving the President’s assent, the state government officially implements the new name. This may involve changing official documents, signboards, letterheads, websites, and other administrative records to reflect the new name.
5 . Facts for Prelims
Controller of certifying Authority
- Sections 17 to 34 of Chapter VI of the IT Act provide for the Controller of Certifying Authorities (CCA) to licence and regulate the working of Certifying Authorities (CAs). CCA also ensures that none of the provisions of the Act are violated. The regulation of certifying authorities or electronic signature infrastructure in India consists of :
- Controller of Certifying Authority (CCA). The IT Act, 2000 provides for an appointment, functions, powers, duties of CCA (the apex regulatory body for certifying authorities in India) and other officers.
- Certifying Authorities (CAs). A certifying authority is a trusted third party or entity that will get licence from the controller and will issue electronic signature certificate to the users of e-commerce. These authorities will function under the supervision and control of the controller of certifying authorities.
Functions of CCA (Secs. 18-25)
- To act as regulator of certifying authorities (Sec. 18).
- To recognise the foreign certifying authority (Sec. 19).
- To grant licence to CAs to issue electronic signature certificate (Sec. 21)
- To suspend licence (Sec. 25).
Powers of CCA
- The Act has conferred the following powers upon the controller of certifying authorities :
- Power to authorise in writing, the deputy or the assistant controller or any officer to exercise any of his powers (Sec. 27).
- Power to investigate any contravention of the Act or rules or regulations made thereunder. [Sec. 28(1)].
- Power to direct a certifying authority or any employee of such authority to take such measures or to cease to carry on such activities if these are necessary to ensure compliance with the provisions of the Act, rules or any regulations made thereunder [Sec. 68(1)].
- Power to direct any agency of the government to intercept any information transmitted through any computer resource if it is necessary in the interest of the sovereignty or integrity of India, security of state, friendly relations with foreign state etc. [Sec. 69(1)].
- Power to issue directions for blocking the public access of any information through any computer resource in the circumstances given under point No. 4 (Sec. 69A).
- Power to authorize to monitor and collect traffic data or information through any computer resource for cyber security (Sec. 69B).
- Power to make regulations for carrying out the purposes of this Act after consultation with the cyber regulatory advisory committee and previous approval of Central Government. The regulations may pertain to the following :
- Particulars regarding maintenance of database containing disclosure of record of every CA [Sec. 18(n)]
- Conditions and recognition of Foreign Certifying Authority [Sec. 19(1)].
- Terms and conditions for grant of licence to CA [Sec. 21(3)].
- Standards to be observed by CA [Sec. 30(d)]
- Power to exercise himself or through an authorized officer the following powers which are conferred on Income Tax Authorities under Chapter XIII of the Income Tax Act, 1961 :
- Power to inspect, enforce attendance of any person and examine him on oath,
- Power to conduct search and seizure,
- Power to requisite books of account,
- Power to call for information,
- Power to inspect and take copies of register of members or debenture holders,
- Power to make inquiries.
Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO)
- The Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO) is an international organization aimed at the promotion of sustainable development of the Amazon Basin. Its member states are: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela
- The Amazon Cooperation Treaty (ACT) was signed on 3 July 1978 and amended in 1998. ACTO was created in 1995 to strengthen the implementation of the Treaty. The Permanent Secretariat was later established in Brasilia in 2002.
Nutrition Based subsidy Scheme
- The Nutrient Based Subsidy (NBS) Policy is being implemented w.e.f. 1.4.2010 by the Department of Fertilizers and under the said policy, a fixed amount of subsidy decided on annual basis, is provided on each grade of subsidized Phosphatic & Potassic (P&K) fertilizers depending on its Nutrient Content. At present 22 grades of P&K fertilizers are covered under the NBS policy. This subsidy is given by Government of India to the P&K fertilizer companies which are therefore able to provide P&K fertilizers to the farmers at a subsidized MRP, which is lower than it would have been. Accordingly, farmers across the country who are procuring fertilizers at MRP, is availing the benefit of subsidy.
- The benefits accruing to the farmers are as under:
- The P&K fertilizers are made available to farmers in adequate quantities.
- More grades of P&K fertilizers have brought under the purview of the NBS Scheme giving the farmers wider choice to use complex fertilizer grades.