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28th March Current Affairs

NPPA hikes prices of 800 essential drugs from 1 April

(GS-II: Issues related to Health)

In News:

The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) has announced a hike in prices of around 800 essential drugs from 1 April. These drugs are included in the National Essential List of Medicine (NELM).

The rise in drug prices works out at around 10.76% based on the Wholesale Price Index (WPI)

Basis:

The clause 16 of Drugs Price Control Order 2013, allows NPPA to revise the ceiling price of scheduled formulations as per the annual wholesale price index (WPI) for the preceding calendar year on or before 1 April of every year and notify the same on the first day of April every year.

About the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM):

Under the provisions of Drug Prices Control Order, 2013, only the prices of drugs that figure in the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) are monitored and controlled by the regulator, the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority.

Essential medicines are those that satisfy the priority healthcare needs of the majority of the population.

The primary purpose of NLEM is to promote rational use of medicines considering the three important aspects i.e. cost, safety and efficacy.

About NPPA:

NPPA was constituted by the Government of India in 1997 as an attached office of the Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP), Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers as an independent Regulator for pricing of drugs and to ensure availability and accessibility of medicines at affordable prices.

It was made to fix/revise prices of controlled bulk drugs and formulations and to enforce price and availability of the medicines in the country, under the Drugs (Prices Control) Order, 1995-2013 (DPCO).

Bucharest Nine

(GS-II: International Relations)

In News:

The envoys to India of nine Eastern European countries called Bucharest Nine jointly wrote to acquaint the Indian public with the basic facts on the ground” about the “premeditated, unprovoked and unjustified Russian aggression in Ukraine”.

Details:

The B9 countries have been critical of President Vladimir Putin’s aggression against Ukraine since 2014, when the war in the Donbas started and Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula.

What is Bucharest Nine?

The “Bucharest Nine” is a group of nine NATO countries in Eastern Europe that became part of the US-led military alliance after the end of the Cold War.

The B9 was founded on November 4, 2015, and takes its name from Bucharest, the capital of Romania.

The group was created on the initiative of Klaus Iohannis, who has been President of Romania since 2014, and Andrzej Duda, who became President of Poland in August 2015.

Members:

Romania, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and the three Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

All members of the B9 are part of the European Union (EU) and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

All nine countries were once closely associated with the now dissolved Soviet Union, but later chose the path of democracy.

Functions of B9:

The B9 offers a platform for deepening the dialogue and consultation among the participant allied states, in order to articulate their specific contribution to the ongoing processes across the North-Atlantic Alliance.

It works in total compliance with the principles of solidarity and indivisibility of the security of the NATO Member States.

Polar Science and Cryosphere (PACER) scheme

(GS-III: Achievements of Indians in Science & Technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology)

In News:

The Polar Science and Cryosphere (PACER) scheme has been approved for continuation during 2021-2026.

The PACER scheme:

Polar Science and Cryosphere Research (PACER) scheme comprises the Antarctic program, Indian Arctic program, Southern Ocean program and Cryosphere and Climate program.

It is being implemented successfully through National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR), an autonomous institute under the Ministry of Earth Sciences.

What is the cryosphere?

The cryosphere is the frozen water part of the Earth system.

These are places on Earth that are so cold that water is frozen solid. These areas of snow or ice, which are subject to temperatures below 0°C 32°F for at least part of the year, compose the cryosphere.

The term “cryosphere” comes from the Greek word, “krios,” which means cold.

Ice and snow on land are one part of the cryosphere.

This includes the largest parts of the cryosphere, the continental ice sheets found in Greenland and Antarctica, as well as ice caps, glaciers, and areas of snow and permafrost.

When continental ice flows out from land and to the sea surface, we get shelf ice.

The other part of the cryosphere is ice that is found in water. This includes frozen parts of the ocean, such as waters surrounding Antarctica and the Arctic. It also includes frozen rivers and lakes, which mainly occur in polar areas.

Significance of Cryosphere:

The components of the cryosphere play an important role in the Earth’s climate.

Snow and ice reflect heat from the sun, helping to regulate our planet’s temperature.

Because polar regions are some of the most sensitive to climate shifts, the cryosphere may be one of the first places where scientists are able to identify global changes in climate.

PACER encompasses the following six components.

  • Construction of polar research vessel
  • Construction of the third research base in Antarctica
  • Indian scientific endeavours in the Arctic
  • Polar expeditions-Antarctica
  • Replacement of Maitri station
  • Southern Ocean

Objective of PACER scheme: To improve our understanding of Polar Science and cryosphere system.

Major achievements of the PACER scheme in the recent three years are:

Executed 39th & 40th Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica.

41st Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica is ongoing.

Clear-air atmospheric observatories containing automatic weather stations, a suite of sensors to measure aerosol and greenhouse gas concentrations has been established at Maitri and Bharati stations.

Twenty-three research projects related to glaciology, marine science, polar biology, and atmospheric science were successfully carried out during 2019-20 Arctic Expedition.

IndARC mooring system along with Hydrophone system was successfully retrieved and deployed in Kongsfjorden, Svalbard.

Glaciological field campaigns were carried out in six benchmark glaciers in Chandra basin of Lahaul-Spiti region of Western Himalaya.

Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana

(GS-II: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes and betterment of these vulnerable sections)

In News:

In keeping with the concern and sensitivity towards poor and vulnerable sections of society, the Government has extended the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PM-GKAY) scheme for another six months i.e., till September 2022 (Phase VI).

Details:

The Phase-V of PM-GKAY scheme was to end in March 2022.

It may be recalled that the PM-GKAY has been under implementation since April 2020, as the largest food security program in the world.

About PMGKAY:

During the ongoing crisis owing to Covid-19 Pandemic, Union Government announced Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana (PMGKAY) providing free food grains to the affected population.

PMGKAY is a part of Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package (PMGKP) to help the poor fight the battle against Covid-19.

Its nodal Ministry is the Ministry of Finance.

It was initially announced for a three-month period (April, May and June 2020), covering 80 crore ration cardholders. Later it was extended till November 2020.

However, in April 2021, the government had announced its decision to restart the scheme as PMGKAY-III.

The salient features of the scheme are:

80 crore individuals, i.e, roughly two-thirds of India’s population would be covered under this scheme.

Insurance cover of Rs 50 Lakh per health worker fighting COVID-19 to be provided under Insurance Scheme.

80 crore poor people will to get 5 kg wheat or rice and 1 kg of preferred pulses for free every month for the next three months.

20 crore women Jan Dhan account holders to get Rs 500 per month for next three months.

Increase in MNREGA wage to Rs 202 a day from Rs 182 to benefit 13.62 crore families.

Government to front-load Rs 2,000 paid to farmers in first week of April under existing PM Kisan Yojana to benefit 8.7 crore farmers.

Expenditure:

Government of India will bear all expenditure of over Rs. 26,000 crore on account of food subsidy and Central assistance to states/UTs on account of intra-state transportation etc.

Challenge:

A key issue is that the beneficiaries of the National Food Security Act are based on the last census (2011).

The number of food-insecure people has increased since then and they remain uncovered.