Daily Current Affairs : 13th April

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Electoral Bonds
  2. 5G Linked Cows
  3. Know your Medicine
  4. Facts for Prelims – Order of the Holy Apostle Andrew the First, Assam Rifles, HR 2123

1 . Electoral Bonds

Context : Rejecting the government’s plea to steer clear of the electoral bonds scheme for political funding, the Supreme Court on Friday passed an interim order directing political parties to provide complete information to the Election Commission in sealed covers on every single donor and contribution received till date.

What are electoral bonds?

  • The Finance Bill, 2017 introduced “Electoral bonds” as interest-free bearer instruments (like Promissory Notes) that will be available for purchase from the State Bank of India within a designated window of 10 days in every quarter of the financial year. 
  • The scheme, which was notified on January 2, 2018, allows individuals and domestic companies to present these bonds — issued in multiples of Rs 1,000, Rs 10,000, Rs 1 lakh, Rs 10 lakh, and Rs 1 crore — to political parties of their choice, which have to redeem them within 15 days.
  • Buyers of the bonds have to submit full KYC details at the time of buying. But the beneficiary political party is not required to reveal the identity of the entity that has given it the bond(s).

On what grounds has the scheme been challenged in court?

  • The petitioners have stated that the Electoral Bonds Scheme has “opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate donations to political parties and anonymous financing by Indian as well as foreign companies which can have serious repercussions on the Indian democracy”.
  • The scheme, they have said, has “removed the caps on campaign donations by companies and have legalised anonymous donations”. This poses a “serious danger to the autonomy of the country and are bound to adversely affect electoral transparency, encourage corrupt practices in politics, and have made the unholy nexus between politics and corporate houses more opaque and treacherous and is bound to be misused by special interest groups and corporate lobbyists”.

The petitioners have raised four major objections:

  • Ordinary citizens will not be able to know who is donating how much money to which political party, and the bonds “increase the anonymity of political donations”.
  • The requirement to disclose in the profit and loss account the name of the political party to which a donation has been made, has also been removed.
  • With the removal of the 7.5% cap on the net profits of the last three years of a company, corporate funding has increased manifold, as there is now no limit to how much a company, including loss-making ones, can donate. This opens up the possibility of companies being brought into existence by unscrupulous elements primarily for routing funds to political parties through anonymous and opaque instruments like electoral bonds.
  • The contribution received by any eligible political party in the form of electoral bonds will be exempt from income-tax as per Section 13A of the Income Tax Act

What does the Election Commission think of electoral bonds?

  • In its affidavit to the Supreme Court filed the EC said that “any donation received by a political party through an electoral bond has been taken out of the ambit of reporting under the Contribution Report”, and if information on the money received through such bonds is not reported, “it cannot be ascertained whether the political party has taken any donation in violation of provisions” of the Representation of the People Act, which “prohibits the political parties from taking donations from government companies and foreign sources
  • The Commission also flagged the issue of laws being changed to allow political parties to receive contributions from foreign companies, which would “allow unchecked foreign funding of political parties in India which could lead to Indian policies being influenced by foreign companies”.
  • In its affidavit to the Supreme Court filed on March 25, the EC said that it had written to the Union Ministry of Law and Justice in April 2017 that “certain provisions of the Finance Act, 2017 and corresponding amendments carried out in the Income-Tax Act, the Representation of the People Act, and the Companies Act will have serious repercussions/ impact on the transparency aspect of political finance/ funding of political parties

What are the government’s arguments on these issues?

  • The government has been defending the scheme on the ground that it limits the use of cash in political funding, thus bringing more transparency, and provides a shield to donors by granting them anonymity.
  • It told the Supreme Court in its affidavit that the introduction of the scheme “has brought in a marked shift from the old electoral system which suffered from many lacunas” as “massive amounts of political donations were being made in cash, by individuals/corporates, using illicit means of funding” and identity of the donors was not known and “the ‘system’ was wholly opaque and ensured complete anonymity”.
  • It argued that “all payments made for the issuance of the electoral bonds are accepted only by means of a demand draft, cheque or through the Electronic Clearing System or direct debit to the buyers’ account”; “no black money can, therefore, be used for the purchase of these bonds”.
  • The goverment underlined that buyers must comply with KYC requirements, and the beneficiary political party has to “disclose the receipt of this money and must account for the same”. Also, limiting the time for which the bond is valid “ensures that the bonds do not become a parallel currency”.
  • According to the government, “non-disclosure of the identity of the donor is the core objective of the scheme, in order to safeguard the donor from political victimisation”, and “the records of the purchaser are always available in the banking channel and may be retrieved as and when required by enforcement agencies”.

2 . 5G Linked Cows

About 5G Linked Cows

  • Cows are provided with 5G-connected gadgets like a collar that controls a robotic milking system.
  • When the cow feels ready to be milked it will approach machine gates that will automatically open. The device recognises the individual to precisely latch on to its teats for milking, while the cow munches on a food reward.
  • The gadgets do not harm the cows and the monitoring allows handlers to see any signs of distress.

3 . Know your Medicine

Context : Alerted by the Union Health Ministry’s pharmaceutical watchdog, the National Co-ordination Centre of the Pharmacovigilance Programme of India (PvPI), on adverse reactions that were being reported from some commonly-used antibiotics, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) has now asked manufacturers to ensure that this information be made available to the general public.

Background of National Co-ordination Centre of the Pharmacovigilance Programme of India (PvPI)

  • Adverse drug reaction (ADRs) is response to a drug which is noxious and unintended and which occurs at doses normally used in human for the prophylaxis, diagnosis or treatment of disease, or for the modification of physiological function. ADRs are one of the major public health issues and found to cause of morbidity and mortality. The impact of ADRs in India is significant and leads to the enormous burden to the public.
  • Therefore, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW), Government of India launched a nationwide Pharmacovigilance Programme of India (PvPI) in the year 2010 to monitor the safety of drugs.

About National Co-ordination Centre of the Pharmacovigilance Programme of India (PvPI)

  • The Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO), New Delhi, under the aegis of Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India has initiated a nation-wide pharmacovigilance programme in July, 2010, with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi as the National Coordinating Centre (NCC) for monitoring Adverse Drug Reactions (ADR) in the country to safe-guard Public Health.
  • The mission of PvPI is to safeguard the health of the Indian population by ensuring that the benefit of use of medicine outweighs the risks associated with its use. Since there exist considerable social and economic consequences of adverse drug reactions and the positive benefit/cost ratio of implementing appropriate risk management – there is a need to engage healthcare professionals and the public at large, in a well structured programme to build synergies for monitoring adverse drug reactions in the country.
  • The purpose of the PvPI is to collate data, analyze it and use the inferences to recommend informed regulatory interventions, besides communicating risks to healthcare professionals and the public. The broadened patient safety scope of pharmacovigilance includes the detection of medicines of substandard quality as well as prescribing, dispensing and administration errors. Counterfeiting, antimicrobial resistance, and the need for real time surveillance in mass vaccinations are other pharmacovigilance challenges which need to be addressed.
  • The vision of PvPI is to improve patient safety and welfare in Indian population by monitoring drug safety and thereby reducing the risk associated with use of medicines.The ultimate safety decisions on medicines may need considerations of comparative benefit/risk evaluations between products for similar indications, so the complexity is great.
Scope and Objectives
  • To create a nation-wide system for patient safety reporting
  • To identify and analyse new signal from the reported cases
  • To analyse the benefit – risk ratio of marketed medications
  • To generate evidence based information on safety of medicines
  • To support regulatory agencies in the decision-making process on use of medications
  • To communicate the safety information on use of medicines to various stakeholders to minimise the risk
  • To emerge as a national centre of excellence for pharmacovigilance activities
  • To collaborate with other national centres for the exchange of information and data management
  • To provide training and consultancy support to other national pharmacovigilance centres across globe
  • To promote rational use of medicine
Short Term Goals
  • To develop and implement pharmaco-vigilance system in India
  • To enrol, initially, all MCI approved medical colleges in the program covering north, south, east and west of India
  • To encourage healthcare professionals in reporting of adverse reaction to drugs, vaccines, medical devices and biological products
  • Collection of case reports and data
Long Term Goals
  • To expand the pharmacovigilance programme to all hospitals (govt. & private) and centres of public health programs located across India
  • To develop and implement electronic reporting system (e-reporting)
  • To develop reporting culture amongst healthcare professionals
  • To make ADR reporting mandatory for healthcare professionals

About Central Drug Standard Control Organization

  • The Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation(CDSCO)under Directorate General of Health Services,Ministry of Health & Family Welfare,Government of India is the National Regulatory Authority (NRA) of India for Indian pharmaceuticals and medical devices
  • Under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, CDSCO is responsible for approval of Drugs, Conduct of Clinical Trials, laying down the standards for Drugs, control over the quality of imported Drugs in the country and coordination of the activities of State Drug Control Organizations by providing expert advice with a view of bring about the uniformity in the enforcement of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act.
  • Further CDSCO along with state regulators, is jointly responsible for grant of licenses of certain specialized categories of critical Drugs such as blood and blood products, I. V. Fluids, Vaccine and Sera.

4 . Facts for Prelims

Assam Rifles

  • Assam Riffles, the 184-year-old paramilitary force of the country, is under the administrative control of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) while the operational control lies with the Ministry of Defence (MoD)

Order of the Holy Apostle Andrew the First

  • Russia announced that President Vladimir Putin will confer its highest civilian award, the “Order of the Holy Apostle Andrew the First,” on Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his work on bilateral ties
  • The order was presented to the Prime Minister of India for his distinguished contribution to the development of a privileged strategic partnership between Russia and India and friendly ties between the Russian and Indian peoples

HR 2123

  • A bipartisan group comprising half a dozen influential American lawmakers has reintroduced a key legislation in the House of Representatives which seeks to advance the US-India strategic relationship
  • If enacted, the legislation would ensure that the US State Department treat India as a “NATO ally” for the purposes of the Arms Export Control Act

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