National Digital Health Mission

Why in news

Recently Prime Minister of India chaired a high-level meeting to review the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM).

Key Points

  • According to the Prime Minister, the NDHM will bring ease of living for citizens to avail a large number of health services.
  • The technical platform and building up of registries are inevitable essential elements.
  • The utility of the platform to the citizens will be visible only by way of enabling citizens across the country to avail of services like tele consultation with a Doctor, lab, transferring test reports or health records digitally to the Doctor and paying digitally for any of the above services.

National Digital Health Mission (NDHM)

  • The National Digital Health Mission is an agency of the Government of India which seeks to provide medical identity document to Indian people.
  • It enables people to use Ayushman Bharat Yojana, which is a service in India’s publicly funded health care.
  • The program aligns with other government programs, including the Aadhaar identification program and the Ayushman Bharat Yojana healthcare program.
  • On 15th Aug 2020 Hon’ble Prime Minister had announced the launch of NDHM.
  • Since then, the digital modules and registries have been developed and the mission has been rolled out in six Union Territories.
  • So far, nearly 11.9 lakh Health IDs have been generated and 3106 doctors and 1490 facilities have registered on the platform.

Unified Health Interface (UHI)

  • The National Digital Health Mission has been envisaged that Unified Health Interface (UHI) – an open and interoperable IT network for digital health should soon be rolled out.
  • This interface shall enable public and private solutions and apps to plug in and be a part of National Digital Health Ecosystem.
  • It will allow users to search, book and avail necessary healthcare services such as tele-consultations or laboratory tests.
  • The system will ensure that only verified healthcare providers join the ecosystem. This is likely to unleash a digital health tech revolution with innovations and various services for citizens.
  • In such a manner, healthcare infrastructure and human resources can also be utilised in a more efficient manner across the nation.

UPI e-Voucher

  • The concept of UPI e-Voucher developed by National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI).
  • This digital payment option will enable financial transactions linked to specific purpose which can be used only by the intended user.
  • It can be useful for targeted and efficient delivery of various government schemes and an immediate use cases of UPI e-Voucher could be healthcare services.

BRICS Ministerial meeting

Why in News

Foreign ministers of the five-nation grouping BRICS are expected to extensively deliberate on boosting cooperation in countering the coronavirus pandemic at a virtual meeting on June 1.

BRICS Ministerial Meeting 2021

  • BRICS Ministerial Meeting 2021 is going to hosted by India.
  • The meeting will also be watched closely for support from the entire grouping for the India-South Africa proposal at the World Trade Organization (WTO) that asks for a patent waiver for COVID­19 vaccines, which would be a big boost for the proposal.
  • About 60 countries have already backed the proposal, the U.S. has recently agreed to support it, while the European Union is yet to give its final decision on it.
  • They will also exchange views on topical issues of international agenda, including regional conflicts, strengthening of international institutions, countering new challenges and threats, including COVID­19, as well as cooperation between the BRICS countries in the multilateral fora.
  • They will negotiate the key deliverables for the BRICS summit.
  • India announced its priorities for the BRICS@15 summit with the motto “Cooperation for Continuity, Consolidation and Consensus” on the BRICS website.
  • It includes reform of multilateral organisations such as the UN, World Bank and WTO, countering terrorism, cooperation on health and enhancing people­to­people ties between the five BRICS countries that came together in 2006 as a grouping of emerging economies.

BRICS Working Group meeting

  • On May 25 to May 26 2021, 4th BRICS Working Group meeting has been held virtually in the various fields of Biotechnology and Biomedicine.
  • More than 60 participants participated from all five BRICS countries Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa in the online meeting.
  • The meeting was sponsored by, Department of International Cooperation, Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), China and was organized by the China National Centre for Biotechnology Development.


  • BRICS is the acronym coined to associate five major emerging economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.
  • The BRICS members are known for their significant influence on regional affairs.
  • Originally, it was established as a group of four economy i.e., “BRIC” in 2006.
  • Later, in 2010, South Africa was inducted as the fifth member and became “BRICS”.
  • Four out of five members are among the world’s ten largest countries by population and by area, except for South Africa, the twenty-fourth in both.
  • They held its first meeting in 2009 and since then, the governments of the BRICS states have met annually at formal summits.
  • Russia hosted the most recent 12th BRICS summit on 17 November 2020 virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Bilateral relations among BRICS states are conducted mainly based on non-interference, equality, and mutual benefit.

U.S.­China engagement era

Why in News

The more than three­decade long era of engagement between the United States and China that saw the world’s two largest economies develop closely interdependent relations “has come to an end”.

Key Points

  • The period that was broadly described as engagement has come to an end. Competition would henceforth be “the dominant paradigm” and U.S. policy would work under “a new set of strategic parameters”.

Policy shift

  • Recent decision of the US underlines the shift in U.S. views on China from the time of the Obama administration as well as the broadly bipartisan consensus on the current direction of relations, following four turbulent years for the relationship under the previous Trump administration.
  • According to the Bloomberg News report, the clashes on China’s border with India, an economic campaign against Australia and the rise of China’s ‘wolf warrior’ diplomacy’ is the evidenced that suggested that “China is determined to play a more assertive role”.
  • China firmly rejects U.S. moves to exclude and contain China in the name of competition.
  • The two countries are also locked in disputes over Beijing’s claims over the South China Sea, human rights in the Xinjiang region, the future of Taiwan and Hong Kong and economic concerns including the deployment of 5G technology and a global shortage of semiconductors.
  • The U.S. has already tried to build up the importance of its work within the so-called Quad group of nations, which includes India, Japan and Australia.


Smallpox Vaccine in India

Why in News

Even as India tries to meet its Covid-19 vaccine demand and struggles due to a shortage of jabs, a 19th century portrait of three women from Mysore has been going viral as “one of the most important scientific pictures in the history of medicine in India”.

Key Points

  • The painting is believed to be painted on 1805 by Irish-born artist Thomas Hickey.
  • The oil on canvas was initially thought to be portraits of “dancing girls or courtesans”.
  • In the 1990s, Dr Nigel Chancellor, historian at Cambridge University, pointed out that the painting was of historic significance and depicted one of the first vaccine drives in India, with bejeweled women from the Wadiyar dynasty posing for Hickey.
  • The youngest woman, on the right, has been identified as Devajammani, the younger queen of King Krishnaraja Wadiyar III. She has her hand on her left arm, suggesting she has been vaccinated against smallpox.
  • On the left, meanwhile, is the older queen, who has pigmentation around her mouth, which could possibly be a sign of surviving smallpox, probably through variolation, which would often lead to a mild infection that resulted in lasting immunity.
  • According to a catalogue note that accompanied the canvas’s 2007 sale at Sotheby’s, the woman in the middle is one of the king’s sisters.]

Smallpox Vaccine

  • The smallpox vaccine was discovered by Edward Jenner in 1796, was the first successful vaccine to be developed.
  • On June 14, 1802, Anna Dusthall, an Anglo-Indian toddler, was the first person in India to be successfully vaccinated against the virus that relied on the cowpox virus (a mild cousin of smallpox).
  • The “vaccine vesicle” that came on the arm of the receiver was a source of lymphatic fluid or pus that would act as a vaccine, leading to an arm-to-arm immunisation chain. The vaccine subsequently travelled to different parts of India, including Hyderabad, Cochin, Madras and Mysore.

Role played by the canvas

  • While the lymph was at times reportedly dried and sealed between glass plates to be transported, it often did not survive long journeys, due to which the British had to primarily rely on a human chain.
  • There was also opposition from the domestic population on the introduction of the cowpox virus and also because some believed the goddess of smallpox would be angered by the vaccination.
  • With Tipu Sultan defeated in Mysore, and the reinstatement of the Wadiyars, the East India Company was trying to strengthen its position in South India and protect the expat population from an epidemic, making vaccination essential.

Currency Swap

Why in News

Bangladesh’s central bank has approved a $200 million currency swap facility to Sri Lanka.

Key Points

  • Bangladesh’s central bank, has in principle approved a $200 million currency swap agreement with Sri Lanka, which will help Colombo tide over its foreign exchange crisis.
  • Sri Lanka, staring at an external debt repayment schedule of $4.05 million this year, is in urgent need of foreign exchange. Its own foreign exchange reserves in March year stood at $4 million.
  • The two sides have to formalise an agreement to operationalise the facility approved by Bangladesh Bank.
  • Dhaka decided to extend the facility after a request by Sri Lankan Prime Minister to Bangladesh’s Prime Minister.

Currency Swap

  • A currency swap is a transaction in which two parties exchange an equivalent amount of money with each other but in different currencies.
  • The parties are essentially loaning each other money and will repay the amounts at a specified date and exchange rate.
  • In context of Bangladesh, it is effectively a loan that Bangladesh will give to Sri Lanka in dollars, with an agreement that the debt will be repaid with interest in Sri Lankan rupees.
  • For Sri Lanka, this is cheaper than borrowing from the market, and a lifeline as is it struggles to maintain adequate forex reserves even as repayment of its external debt looms.
  • The period of the currency swap will be specified in the agreement.
  • It may be the first time that Bangladesh is extending a helping hand to another country, so this is a landmark of sorts.
  • In 2020, despite fears that the pandemic would hit remittances, Bangladeshis living abroad sent over $21 billion.
  • It is also the first time that Sri Lanka is borrowing from a SAARC country other than India.

Why didn’t Sri Lanka approach India

  • Sri Lanka did but didn’t get a reply from Delhi.
  • In 2020, President of Sri Lanka knocked on India’s door for a $1 billion credit swap, and separately, a moratorium on debts that the country has to repay to India.
  • But due to rising tensions between India-Sri Lanka relations over Colombo’s decision to cancel a valued container terminal project at Colombo Port, India put off the decision, but Colombo no longer has the luxury of time.

Credit Swap Facility

  • In July 2020, the Reserve Bank of India extended a $400 million credit swap facility to Sri Lanka, which Central Bank of Sri Lanka settled in February.
  • RBI has a framework under which it can offer credit swap facilities to SAARC countries within an overall corpus of $2 billion.

SAARC Currency Swap Facility

  • According to RBI, the SAARC currency swap facility came into operation in November 2012.
  • It aims to provide smaller countries in the region “a backstop line of funding for short-term foreign exchange liquidity requirements or balance of payment crisis till longer term arrangements are made”.