Daily Current Affairs for 24th February 2020

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Himachal Pradesh: First to achieve 100% LPG coverage

Paper: II

For Prelims: Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana.

For Mains: Welfare Schemes for Vulnerable Sections of the population by the Centre and States and the Performance of these Schemes; Mechanisms, Laws, Institutions and Bodies constituted for the Protection and Betterment of these Vulnerable Sections.

Context of News

  • On December 27, when the state government completed two years, it declared that Himachal Pradesh had become the first state in the country to have “100% LPG gas coverage.
  • Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh said that Himachal Pradesh will be first state of the country, which will have 100 per cent coverage of LPG connections. Of this, Rs 1.36 lakh were benefitted under the centre’s Ujala Yojana while 2.62 lakh have been provided free gas connections under the state funded ‘Grihini Suvidha Yojana.

Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana:

  • Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana was launched by Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi on 1 May 2016 to distribute 50 million LPG connections to women of BPL families. A budgetary allocation of ₹800 billion was made for the scheme.
  • Some of the major benefits provided by Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana are:
  • It provides five crore LPG connections to families below the poverty line.
  • Financial support of Rs 1600 is provided by the scheme for each LPG connection for BPL households. The administrative cost of this support will be borne by the Government. This subsidy is meant for the security fee for the cylinder, pressure regulator, booklet, safety hose, and other fitting charges.
  • Under the scheme, oil marketing companies also provide interest-free loans for refilling and purchasing stoves.
  • The Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana covers all the BPL families that come under all forms of distributorship, and distributes various sizes of cylinders (14.2 kg, 5 kg, etc.) as per the field situation.
  • The benefits of this scheme are also available for the people of all Hilly States including the NE States (who are treated as ‘Priority States’).
  • Key objectives of the scheme:
  • Empowering women and protecting their health.
  • Reducing the serious health hazards associated with cooking based on fossil fuel.
  • Reducing the number of deaths in India due to unclean cooking fuel.
  • Preventing young children from significant number of acute respiratory illnesses caused due to indoor air pollution by burning the fossil fuel.

Challenges before the scheme:

  • Only a small proportion of households use LPG alone for cooking.
  • Affordability of refill and difficulty in getting a refill are the reasons for this scenario.
  • In rural India many households are using biomass such as firewood, crop residue and dung cakes as their primary cooking fuels which are much affordable for them.
  • While it is true that use of cylinders does increase over the years, the assumption of union government on cylinder consumption ignores the volatility in rural incomes.
  • It also ignores that that most rural women do not have a say in determining when a refill is ordered, even though the connection is in their name.
  • Penetration of this scheme is not up to the task and many a times delivery mechanism is very late, which also forces the users to switch other cooking fuel mechanism like using old traditional method challah.

Way Forward:

  • The government and the oil marketing companies need to find ways in which they can get more households to use LPG as their primary fuel.
  • Along with 14 kg cylinders government should go for small version of 5 kg cylinders under this scheme that would be more inclusiveness and would incorporate more section of people from different section of people.


India, China spar over export curbs on medical products

Paper: II

For Mains: Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests, Indian Diaspora.

Context of News:

  • India and China were locked in a verbal duel recently over export restrictions on medical products from India in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Chinese medical institutions, charity organisations and local authorities have complained that medical products needed in fighting the epidemic in China are prohibited for export by the Indian side. Chinese government also said that the WHO has repeatedly opposed any travel and trade restrictions on China, which should be followed by all parties.

Background of Medical products Export Ban from India Post Corona Virus Outbreak:

  • On 31 January 2020, India banned exports of all personal protection equipment, including clothing and masks used to protect people from airborne particles to avoid any shortage of it in India.
  • However, recently the government cleared some of the protective clothing and personal protection equipment like masks for exports to China, setting aside the ban on some of them.
  • After the export ban was lifted by the Indian government, we can supply surgical masks to any company, including in China.
  • India’s Suffering:
  • Indian drug manufacturers are to a large extent dependent on China for sourcing their drug ingredients or the active pharmaceutical ingredients, as the industry words it. This is largely for drugs like antibiotics – crucial among them being penicillin ,tetracycline – and for vitamins such as vitamin C and D. All of these are based on drug ingredients made using the fermentation-based process, an area where China has achieved global dominance. Now, the coronavirus scare has added a new dimension with an air of uncertainty around how the supply situation from China will unfold.
  • India that are dependent on the imports find it challenging post Corona Virus outbreak and extended new year holiday of Pharma industry in China, though larger companies may not be severely impacted as they tend to have enough inventory but smaller units.
  • According to government data, bulk drugs used to manufacture medicines were among the top 10 imports from China between 2015 and 2019. While an impact is expected across the board if the situation does not improve, experts feel pharmaceuticals may be among the sectors to be hit the hardest.
  • China supplies nearly 70% of the total bulk drugs and intermediates (raw materials) imported to make medicines in India. Some 354 drugs and drug ingredients were imported from China in 2017.

Policy of Government to Ensure Availability of key medical products:

  • Present government has drawn up a list of 38 drug raw materials that it wants locally produced in a bid to end the country’s dependence on Chinese imports for them.
  • Government has asked leaders of the Indian pharmaceutical industry to boost the manufacturing of these raw materials, which are scientifically called active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs).
  • Recently the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare notified changes in the Medical Devices Rules, 2017 to regulate medical devices on the same lines as drugs under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940.
  • The ministry, through a gazette notification, also released the Medical Devices Amendment Rules, 2020, for mandatory registration of medical devices.

India’s Response on Restrictions Imposed:

  • In response, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson of India said the precautions taken by India are in accordance with WHO’s advisory about the outbreak of coronavirus.
  • Adding Further, Indian Government said some restrictions have been imposed on the export of certain medical equipment in view of the fact that these items are in short supply in India too. Just like any other country, India with a billion-plus population has the responsibility to take the necessary measures to combat the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak which if not properly managed can become a global risk.

Suggestive Measure for India:

  • The growing infection from the novel virus has raised concerns among the drug makers about the adequate production and supplies of active ingredients going forward, as well as the extent to which shipments can be made if transit hubs are out of commission.
  • India should quickly diversify its import outlets to save its industry, consumers and economy from trade breakdown with a single partner such as China. This is the biggest challenge before the Modi government. India can’t and shouldn’t depend primarily on a single country for the import of any of its vital needs.

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