Ebola Survivors Can Trigger Outbreaks Years After Infection
(GS-II: Issues related to health)
Ebola survivors can relapse and trigger outbreaks at least five years after infection, and long-term follow-up of former patients is needed to prevent devastating flare-ups, according to new research.
The study notes that these “virus reservoirs” appear able to awaken and cause new infections and transmission years on.
Implications for public health and care of survivors of Ebola:
Humans can now be added to the list of intermediate hosts that can serve as long-term Ebola virus ‘reservoirs’ and trigger new outbreaks.
There is a need to prioritise healthcare workers for vaccination and monitor Ebola survivors for signs of a flare-up.
A broader definition of “Ebola survivor” is now needed, beyond those who battled through symptoms.
The Ebola outbreak in 2014-2016 killed 11,300 people, mostly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
In May 2021, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) officially declared the end of the 12th Ebola outbreak.
Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, is a severe, often fatal illness in humans.
Transmission: The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.
The average EVD case fatality rate is around 50%. Case fatality rates have varied from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks.
Prevention: Community engagement is key to successfully controlling outbreaks. Good outbreak control relies on case management, surveillance and contact tracing, a good laboratory service and social mobilisation.
Treatment: Early supportive care with rehydration, symptomatic treatment improves survival. There is yet no licensed treatment proven to neutralise the virus but a range of blood, immunological and drug therapies are under development.
Substitute for single-use plastics
(GS-III: Conservation and Pollution related issues)
IISc researchers find a way to substitute for single-use plastics.
By combining non-edible oils and cellulose extracted from agricultural stubble, the researchers made biodegradable, multi use polymer sheets.
This can make a substitute for single-use plastic that can, in principle, help mitigate the problem of accumulating plastic waste in the environment.
In 2019, the Union government in a bid to free India of single-use plastics by 2022, had laid out a multi-ministerial plan to discourage the use of single-use plastics across the country.
A government committee has identified the single use plastic (SUP) items to be banned based on an index of their utility and environmental impact. It has proposed a three-stage ban:
The first category of SUP items proposed to be phased out are plastic sticks used in balloons, flags, candy, ice-cream and ear buds, and thermocol that is used in decorations.
The second category, proposed to be banned from July 1, 2022, includes items such as plates, cups, glasses and cutlery such as forks, spoons, knives, straws, trays; wrapping and packing films used in sweet boxes; invitation cards; cigarette packets; stirrers and plastic banners that are less than 100 microns in thickness.
A third category of prohibition is for non-woven bags below 240 microns in thickness. This is proposed to start from September next year.
It is not going to be an easy task given that close to 26,000 tons of plastic waste is generated across India every day, of which more than 10,000 tons stays uncollected.
A significant amount of plastic ends up in rivers, oceans and landfills.
What needs to be done?
The government has to do a thorough economic and environmental cost-benefit analysis.
The plan has to take into account social and economic impacts for the ban to be successful.
We need better recycling policies because resources are poor and there needs to be a much broader strategy.
Central bank digital currency (CBDC)
(GS-II: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights)
The Reserve Bank of India has been working on a phased implementation strategy for a CBDC and the pilot may be launched by the end of this year.
The financial advisory services firm has listed four major use cases of CBDC in the Indian context. This includes:
‘Fit-for-purpose’ money used for social benefits and other targeted payments in a country. For such cases, the central bank can pay intended beneficiaries pre-programmed CBDC, which could be accepted only for a specific purpose.
CBDCs could be used for faster cross-border remittance payments. International collaboration among the major economies of the world, including India, could help create the necessary infrastructure and arrangements for CBDC transfer and conversion.
Payment instruments could be made available for payment transactions to be made via CBDC. Furthermore, universal access attributes of a CBDC could also include an offline payment functionality.
Instant lending to micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in India can be possible with the help of CBDC.
Need for CBDC:
An official digital currency would reduce the cost of currency management while enabling real-time payments without any inter-bank settlement.
India’s fairly high currency-to-GDP ratio holds out another benefit of CBDC — to the extent large cash usage can be replaced by CBDC, the cost of printing, transporting and storing paper currency can be substantially reduced.
The need for inter-bank settlement would disappear as it would be a central bank liability handed over from one person to another.
What is the CBDC or National Digital currency?
A Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), or national digital currency, is simply the digital form of a country’s fiat currency. Instead of printing paper currency or minting coins, the central bank issues electronic tokens. This token value is backed by the full faith and credit of the government.
SC Garg Committee recommendations (2019):
Ban anybody who mines, hold, transact or deal with cryptocurrencies in any form.
It recommends a jail term of one to 10 years for exchange or trading in digital currency.
It proposed a monetary penalty of up to three times the loss caused to the exchequer or gains made by the cryptocurrency user whichever is higher.
However, the panel said that the government should keep an open mind on the potential issuance of cryptocurrencies by the Reserve Bank of India.
Challenges in rolling out National Digital Currency:
Potential cybersecurity threat.
Lack of digital literacy of population.
Introduction of digital currency also creates various associated challenges in regulation, tracking investment and purchase, taxing individuals, etc.
Threat to Privacy: The digital currency must collect certain basic information of an individual so that the person can prove that he’s the holder of that digital currency.
(GS-II: Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these)
Vice-President and Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu has said that disrupting parliamentary proceedings amounts to contempt of the House and it cannot be claimed as a privilege.
This is the first time that a presiding officer of any legislature in the country has taken a public position on the issue of disruptions in the Parliament.
Productivity of Rajya Sabha:
The productivity of Rajya Sabha has been quantified since 1978. During the first 19 years till 1996, the productivity of the House has been over 100 per cent, but it has begun to decline since then.
While the House clocked an annual productivity of over 100 per cent during 16 out of these 19 years, it was so only in two years — in 1998 and 2009 — that it clocked 100 percent productivity in the preceding 24 years. Rajya Sabha has not clocked 100 percent productivity even once in the past 12 years.
What are Parliamentary Privileges?
Parliamentary Privileges are certain rights and immunities enjoyed by members of Parliament, individually and collectively, so that they can “effectively discharge their functions”.
Article 105 of the Constitution expressly mentions two privileges, that is, freedom of speech in Parliament and right of publication of its proceedings.
Apart from the privileges as specified in the Constitution, the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, provides for freedom from arrest and detention of members under civil process during the continuance of the meeting of the House or of a committee thereof and forty days before its commencement and forty days after its conclusion.
Motion against breaches:
When any of these rights and immunities are disregarded, the offence is called a breach of privilege and is punishable under law of Parliament.
A notice is moved in the form of a motion by any member of either House against those being held guilty of breach of privilege.
Role of the Speaker/Rajya Sabha (RS) Chairperson:
The Speaker/RS chairperson is the first level of scrutiny of a privilege motion.
The Speaker/Chair can decide on the privilege motion himself or herself or refer it to the privileges committee of Parliament.
If the Speaker/Chair gives consent under relevant rules, the member concerned is given an opportunity to make a short statement.
The Constitution also extends the parliamentary privileges to those persons who are entitled to speak and take part in the proceedings of a House of Parliament or any of its committees. These include the Attorney General of India.
The parliamentary privileges do not extend to the President who is also an integral part of the Parliament. Article 361 of the Constitution provides for privileges for the President.