CURRENT AFFAIRS – 05/03/2024

CURRENT AFFAIRS - 05/03/2024

CURRENT AFFAIRS – 05/03/2024

CURRENT AFFAIRS – 05/03/2024

White Revolution 2.0

(General Studies- Paper III)

Source : The Indian Express

In rural India, the monthly per capita expenditure on milk and dairy products is Rs 314, surpassing other food items such as vegetables (Rs 203), cereals (Rs 185), egg, fish & meat (Rs 185), fruits (Rs 140), edible oil (Rs 136), spices (Rs 113), and pulses (Rs 76).

  • Urban India also demonstrates a preference for milk, with a monthly per capita expenditure of Rs 466, followed by fruits (Rs 246), vegetables (Rs 245), cereals (Rs 235), egg, fish & meat (Rs 231), edible oil (Rs 153), spices (Rs 138), and pulses (Rs 90).

Key Highlights

  • The higher expenditure on milk, considered a “superior” food, is positive for the dairy industry and farmers.
  • Challenges:
    • The first challenge stems from consumer demand issues due to inflation.
    • The modal price of milk in India has increased from Rs 42 to Rs 60 per litre in the last five years, with a significant rise from Rs 52 to Rs 60 occurring in the last year alone.
    • Cost of Fodder and Raw Materials:
      • The second challenge is associated with rising costs of fodder, feed, and raw materials/ingredients for dairy production.
      • As these costs escalate, dairies must raise procurement prices paid to farmers, leading to increased consumer prices.
    • Limitations of Consumer Affordability:
      • There’s a concern about the limit to which consumers can afford higher milk prices without causing demand destruction.
    • Solution: Reducing Production Costs:
      • To boost farmer incomes without compromising domestic demand and global competitiveness, there is a need to focus on reducing the overall cost of milk production.
    • Enhancing Milk Production Through Technological Innovations
      • Genetic Improvement and Breeding Technologies:
        • A key strategy to reduce the production cost of milk is through the enhancement of milk yield per animal, achieved by leveraging genetic improvement and new breeding technologies.
      • Sex-Sorted (SS) Semen for Female Calves:
        • The use of sex-sorted (SS) semen increases the probability of female calves, vital for future milk production.
        • Amul, a prominent cooperative, has already implemented SS semen in 20.5% of artificial inseminations (AIs) and aims for a 30% ratio by 2024-25.
      • Embryo Transfer (ET) Technology:
        • ET technology maximizes the potential of high genetic merit (HGM) cows, ensuring multiple offspring with superior milking capabilities.
        • ET involves stimulating cows to release multiple ova, fertilizing them with superior bull semen, and transferring resulting embryos to recipient animals.
        • This process, with 6 procedures, a 33-35% conception rate, and 6 viable embryos per procedure, can yield around 12 calves per year from a single HGM cow.
      • In Vitro Fertilization (IVF):
        • IVF represents a more recent technological advancement, involving the direct extraction of oocytes from cow ovaries.
        • Mature ova are fertilized in vitro, outside the cow’s body, leading to the production of multiple embryos that are transferred to recipient cows.
        • With 20 procedures, 5 viable embryos per procedure, and a 33-35% conception rate, IVF can result in 33-35 calves per donor cow per year, significantly surpassing natural breeding outcomes.
      • Economic Impact and Sustainability:
        • Implementing these technologies can lead to White Revolution 2.0, contributing to increased milk production, improved economic outcomes for farmers, and the sustainability of the dairy industry.
      • Future Perspectives:
        • Continued adoption and advancement of these technologies are crucial for addressing the challenges faced by the dairy industry, ensuring a more efficient and sustainable approach to milk production.
      • Initiatives for Sustainable Milk Production at Amul
        • In March 2020, Amul inaugurated a Bovine Breeding Centre at Mogar, Gujarat, with aRs 15 crore investment.
        • Objective: To breed a nucleus herd of High Genetic Merit (HGM) bulls and cows for superior semen and in vitro-fertilized embryos.
        • The center has produced 170 male and 180 female animals, utilizing in vitro fertilization (IVF) and embryo transfer (ET) technology.
        • The breeds include exotic (HF and Jersey), HF-Gir and HF-Sahiwal crossbred, and indigenous Gir, Sahiwal, and Murrah buffalo.
        • Amul is actively implementing IVF-ET technology among farmers, recording 63 pregnancies and 13 calvings.
        • By utilizing AI and sex-sorted (SS) semen, they exploit male genetics, while IVF-ET focuses on the female genetics of donor cows.
      • Member unions of the Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation, including Amul, are extending the benefits of IVF-ET technology to farmers.
    • Animal Nutrition Initiatives:
      • To address feeding costs, Amul is establishing a 30-tonnes-per-day Total Mixed Ration (TMR) plant at Sarsa in Anand.
      • TMR includes dry and green fodder, concentrates, vitamins, and minerals, providing a ready-to-eat mashed form for animals.
      • The plan involves sourcing fodder from farmer producer organizations, promoting the cultivation of protein-rich green fodder grasses.
    • Focus on Lowering Production Costs:
      • The emphasis of White Revolution 2.0 is on reducing the cost of producing milk at the farm-gate, necessitating interventions like genetic improvement, IVF-ET technology, and innovative approaches to animal nutrition.

About the White Revolution in India

  • The White Revolution in India, also known as Operation Flood, was a significant dairy development program initiated by the Indian government in 1970.
  • Led by Dr.VergheseKurien, this movement aimed to transform India into one of the world’s largest milk producers through the establishment of dairy cooperatives and the adoption of modern dairy farming practices.
  • The White Revolution focused on increasing milk production, improving dairy processing infrastructure, and enhancing the livelihoods of dairy farmers across the country.
  • VergheseKurien, often referred to as the “Father of the White Revolution” in India, played a pivotal role in spearheading this transformative initiative.

SC ends immunity for legislators taking bribes

Source : The Hindu

A significant ruling was delivered by a seven-judge Bench of the Supreme Court, challenging the notion that parliamentary privilege or immunity shields legislators from criminal prosecution, especially in cases involving bribery for votes or speeches in Parliament or State Legislative Assemblies.

Key Highlights

  • Rejection of Immunity for Bribery:
    • The Supreme Court emphatically declared that privileges and immunities granted to legislators should not serve as a shield to exempt them from the general laws of the land.
    • The ruling explicitly stated that parliamentary privilege does not protect lawmakers who engage in corrupt practices such as accepting bribes for their votes or speeches.
    • The court highlighted the detrimental impact of corruption and bribery within the legislative body, emphasizing that such actions erode the very foundations of Indian parliamentary democracy.
  • Overruling Previous Precedent:
    • The verdict authored by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud overturned a 25-year-old majority view set in the infamous JMM bribery case judgment of 1998.
    • The previous judgment had controversially asserted that lawmakers were immune from prosecution for corruption if they fulfilled their agreement by voting or speaking in the House as arranged.
    • The seven-judge Bench firmly asserted that the majority decision in the JMM bribery case was an error, and the court was determined not to perpetuate this mistake.
    • Chief Justice Chandrachud underscored the gravity of the situation, emphasizing that representative democracy itself was at stake.
  • Criminal Prosecution Regardless of Legislative Actions:
    • Chief Justice Chandrachud emphasized that a legislator involved in bribery would face criminal prosecution irrespective of whether they make a speech or vote in favor of the bribe-giver.
    • The offense of bribery, according to the Chief Justice, is considered complete upon the acceptance of money or the finalization of the agreement to accept money.
    • The court expressed a strong stance against lawmakers who accept bribes, describing them as detrimental to the aspirational and deliberative ideals of the Constitution.
    • The presence of bribed legislators was deemed to create a political environment that undermines the principles of responsible, responsive, and representative democracy.
  • The Constitution Bench dismissed concerns that reducing parliamentary immunity might expose Opposition lawmakers’ speeches or votes to criminal investigations, asserting that this adjustment wouldn’t enhance the potential for abuse of the law by the ruling political parties.
  • Limitations of Freedom of Speech and Immunities:
    • Chief Justice Chandrachud clarified that the freedom of speech and expression, including voting in the legislative body, along with the immunities granted under Article 105 and 194 of the Constitution, does not extend to the giving or taking of bribes.
    • These constitutional provisions aim to facilitate an environment for debate and deliberation within the legislature, which is compromised when bribery influences a member’s voting or speaking behavior.
    • The judgment outlined that parliamentary immunity would only apply when a legislator’s actions contribute to “fertilising a deliberate, critical, and responsive democracy.”
    • In other words, immunity is contingent on legislators acting in a manner that supports the fundamental principles of a thriving democratic system.
  • Two-Fold Test for Parliamentary Immunity
    • The Supreme Court established a two-fold test for claiming parliamentary immunity or privilege.
    • The shield of immunity could only be invoked if the legislator’s actions aimed at enhancing the dignity and authority of the House and its members collectively.
    • Additionally, immunity could be claimed if the actions were in exercise of the legislator’s rights to free speech, protest, and freedom from arrest.
    • Failure to meet this two-fold test would negate the claim for immunity.
    • Rejection of Immunity for Offenses like Bribery:
      • Chief Justice Chandrachud emphasized that interpreting the law to enable Members of Parliament (MPs) to claim immunity from prosecution for offenses like bribery would place them above the law.
      • Such an interpretation was deemed repugnant to the healthy functioning of parliamentary democracy and subversive of the rule of law.
    • Parallel Jurisdiction of Criminal Courts and Legislature:
      • The court clarified that criminal courts and Houses of the legislature have parallel jurisdiction over allegations of bribery.
      • One jurisdiction does not negate the authority of the other.
    • Background: JMM Leader Sita Soren’s Appeal:
      • The reference to the two-fold test came in an appeal filed by JMM leader Sita Soren, accused of taking a bribe to vote for a specific candidate in the 2012 Rajya Sabha elections.
      • The case involved her denial of culpability, asserting that she voted for the official nominee of her party. The CBI filed a chargesheet, and the Jharkhand High Court had refused to quash it, leading to her appeal to the Supreme Court.
    • Historical Context: JMM Bribery Case of 1993:
      • The 1993 JMM bribery case, involvs allegations of bribes to ensure the survival of the P.V. Narasimha Rao government during a no-confidence vote.
      • In 1998, the Supreme Court’s majority verdict in the JMM bribery case had granted immunity to bribed legislators, stating they were immune from prosecution if they performed their “legislative function” by casting votes or giving speeches.

About the Article 105 and 194 of the Constitution

  • Article 105: Powers, privileges, etc., of the Houses of Parliament and of the Members and committees thereof:
    • Article 105(1) grants certain powers and privileges to the Members of Parliament (MPs) and the Parliament itself.
      • These privileges are necessary for the functioning and independence of the legislative body.
    • Members of Parliament have the freedom of speech within the Parliament.
      • They cannot be held liable for any statement made or vote cast during the proceedings of the House or its committees.
    • No member can be held legally accountable outside the Parliament for any speech or vote cast within the House.
      • This immunity ensures that MPs can express their views without fear of legal consequences.
    • Parliament has the authority to punish individuals for contempt.
      • Disobeying its orders, obstructing its work, or showing disrespect can lead to penalties decided by Parliament.
    • Each House of Parliament has the authority to regulate its internal affairs, including the rules of procedure and conduct of business.
    • Both Houses have the power to publish reports, debates, and proceedings.
      • This enables transparency and public awareness.
    • Article 194: Powers, privileges, etc., of the Houses of Legislatures and of the Members and committees thereof:
      • Article 194 is the state-level equivalent of Article 105, extending similar powers and privileges to the Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) and Legislative Councils (where applicable).
      • MLAs and members of legislative councils have freedom of speech during proceedings, and similar to Parliament, they enjoy immunity from legal proceedings for statements made or votes cast within the House.
      • State legislatures can also take action against individuals for contempt of the House, ensuring the respect and authority of the legislative body.
      • Similar to Parliament, each state legislature has the power to regulate its internal affairs, determining its rules of procedure and conduct of business.
      • State legislatures, like Parliament, have the authority to publish reports, debates, and proceedings for public information and transparency.

The quick transformation of Russia-North Korea ties

Source : The Hindu

Against the backdrop of escalating tensions in the Korean Peninsula, marked by the abandonment of the unification goal with South Korea, North Korea is increasingly strengthening its ties with Russia.

  • This shift is particularly notable following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, which strained Moscow’s international relations.

Key Highlights

  • Historical Context: Fluctuations in Relations:
    • While the two nations historically maintained diplomatic ties during the Cold War, driven by shared communist ideologies, the relationship experienced fluctuations as the geopolitical landscape evolved.
    • Recent years have witnessed a warming of ties, indicating a more stable and collaborative phase in their relationship.
  • Deepening Collaborations between Russia and North Korea
    • Strategic Collaborations: Arms and Conventional Weaponry Supply:
      • Amidst the ongoing Ukraine crisis, North Korea has emerged as a significant supplier of arms, munitions, artillery shells, and other conventional weaponry to Moscow.
      • This strategic collaboration during a critical international crisis underscores the depth of the newfound partnership between Russia and North Korea.
    • Cooperation in Sensitive Areas and Spy Satellite Development:
      • Reports indicate that Russia and North Korea are engaged in discussions regarding cooperation in sensitive areas, details of which remain undisclosed.
      • Notably, President Putin has offered technical support for the development of spy satellites, a pursuit that North Korea has been aiming to achieve for some time.
    • Potential Trilateral Naval Exercises and Tourism Resumption:
      • There are unconfirmed talks about trilateral naval exercises involving Russia, North Korea, and Beijing.
      • Additionally, in February 2024, Pyongyang welcomed the first group of Russian tourists since the COVID-19 pandemic, hinting at a gradual resumption of people-to-people exchanges.
    • Strategic Importance for Both Nations:
      • For Russia, being an outcast in world politics yet a nuclear power, cultivating a relationship with North Korea is strategically valuable.
      • On the other hand, North Korea, grappling with economic challenges and international sanctions, sees Russia as a potential ally for development in critical sectors such as energy, transportation, and addressing chronic food shortages.
    • Infrastructure Projects and Economic Cooperation:
      • Earlier infrastructure projects, like the Rajin-Khasan railway linking Russia to North Korea’s Rajin port, underscore the tangible efforts to bolster economic cooperation.
      • These initiatives aim to enhance connectivity and facilitate trade between the two nations.
    • Energy Collaboration and Food-for-Arms Agreement:
      • Energy collaboration has emerged as a crucial aspect of the partnership, with Russia being a key supplier of fuel to North Korea.
      • Discussions are underway to explore further cooperation in the energy sector.
      • The mainstay of bilateral cooperation appears to be a food-for-arms agreement, evidenced in August 2023, although both countries have not officially confirmed its existence.
      • This agreement is seen as mutually beneficial, with Moscow needing arms for its Ukraine invasion, and Pyongyang requiring commodities and food.
    • Rail Traffic Increase:
      • Satellite images in October 2023 revealed a significant increase in freight railcar traffic at the Tumangang rail facility near the North Korea-Russia border.
      • This surge pointed to North Korea’s transfers of ammunition to Russia, highlighting a dimension of their collaboration.
    • The Role of the United States in Russia-North Korea Relations
      • A significant factor contributing to the deepening ties between Russia and North Korea is the shared challenge posed by the United States and its allies in the region.
      • Both nations have experienced varying degrees of strain in their relations with the West, prompting a pragmatic recalibration of their foreign policy priorities.
      • Moscow’s Perception of Engagement:
        • Moscow sees engagement with North Korea as a strategic means to influence the broader security landscape in northeast Asia.
        • The diplomatic initiatives undertaken by Russia, often in collaboration with China, reflect a desire to shape regional security independently of Western influence.
      • Offsetting U.S.-Led Alliances:
        • North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui noted in October 2023 that the strong ties between Moscow and Pyongyang could potentially counterbalance the U.S.-led efforts to build a robust alliance between Washington, Tokyo, and Seoul.
        • The recalibration of alliances in the region becomes a key aspect of Russia-North Korea collaboration.
      • Implications for Regional Stability and Global Geopolitics:
        • The deepening engagement and cooperation across various sectors, including diplomatic, military, and economic, suggest that the Russia-North Korea relationship has far-reaching implications.
        • This partnership is likely to significantly influence the dynamics of the Korean Peninsula and the broader northeast Asian region.
        • The ramifications extend beyond the immediate bilateral relationship, impacting regional stability and global geopolitics.

WTO 13th Ministerial Conference

Source : The Hindu

The recently concluded 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Abu Dhabi yielded minimal progress on crucial global trade issues, despite extended deliberations.

Key Highlights

  • Challenges to Global Trade: Significant Shocks
    • The period leading up to MC13 witnessed substantial shocks to the global trading system, including ripple effects from conflicts, disruptions in critical shipment routes with enduring impacts, and recalibrations in supply chains to reduce reliance on single suppliers, notably China.
    • Additionally, a growing trend of inward-looking policies and tariff-heavy trade strategies among nations posed challenges to the WTO’s mission of promoting open trade for the benefit of all.
  • Abu Dhabi Declaration: Challenges
    • The Abu Dhabi declaration acknowledged challenges such as the need for open, inclusive, and resilient supply chains.
    • However, critics argue that the document lacks substantive measures beyond rhetorical acknowledgment.
  • Divergences among the 164 WTO member-countries persisted on critical issues carried forward from the previous conference in Geneva (MC12).
  • These included areas of specific interest to India, such as securing a permanent solution in agriculture for public stock holding to ensure domestic food security and addressing subsidies to the fisheries sector.
  • The exemption from customs duties for e-commerce, an issue India had sought to address due to its impact on revenues, has been extended for at least two more years.
  • Dispute Resolution Body: Bleak Prospects for Resuscitation
    • The prospects for reviving the WTO’s dispute resolution body, dormant for four years, remain dim.
    • Despite the commitment made in Geneva to revive the body by 2024, the likelihood of success is uncertain.
  • India’s Success: Thwarting Investment Facilitation Pact
    • India, in collaboration with South Africa, successfully thwarted an attempt led by China and backed by over 120 countries to introduce an investment facilitation pact into the WTO framework.
    • This represents a key win for India in safeguarding policy space for sensitive sectors, particularly agriculture.
  • WTO’s Relevance: Calls for Adaptation
    • The MC13 outcomes highlight concerns about the WTO’s waning efficacy in an increasingly polarized world.
    • Members’ tendency to portray failed biennial meetings as successes underscores the urgent need for the organization to adapt and remain relevant in the face of evolving global trade challenges.

About the 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) of the World Trade Organization (WTO)

  • The 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) took place in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, from 26 February to 2 March 2024.
  • The conference brought together ministers from WTO Members of various levels of development and with diverse geopolitical views to discuss a range of important topics, including food security, e-commerce, fisheries subsidies, and WTO reform.
  • At MC13, ministers endorsed the accession of two least-developed countries, Comoros and Timor-Leste, which brought the WTO’s membership to 166, representing 98% of world trade.

About the WTO

  • The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an international organization that deals with global rules of trade between nations.
  • Established on January 1, 1995, it replaced the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).
  • The WTO’s primary goal is to facilitate the smooth flow of international trade by negotiating and implementing trade agreements and resolving disputes among member countries.
  • WTO Ministerial Conference:
    • The Ministerial Conference is the highest decision-making body of the WTO and is held at least once every two years.
    • It brings together trade ministers from member countries to discuss and make decisions on various issues related to global trade.
    • The Ministerial Conference plays a crucial role in shaping the direction of the WTO and its trade negotiations.

A vaccine that prevents six cancers

Source : The Hindu

January was designated as Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, emphasizing the significance of safeguarding women’s health by addressing cervical cancer concerns.

  • Additionally, March 4 is observed annually as International HPV Awareness Day, highlighting the critical role of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) in cervical cancer.

Key Highlights

  • Global Impact of Cervical Cancer:
    • Cervical cancer ranks as the fourth most prevalent cancer among women globally, claiming over 300,000 lives annually, equating to one life lost every two minutes.
    • Alarmingly, nine out of 10 women succumbing to cervical cancer reside in lower- and middle-income countries.
  • Cervical Cancer in India:
    • In India, cervical cancer stands as the second most common cancer for women, following breast cancer.
    • With a population exceeding 500 million women aged 15 and above at risk, the country faces significant challenges in tackling this health issue.
    • Projections indicate a potential 54% increase in new cervical cancer cases by 2040 if proactive measures are not implemented.
  • Preventive Strategies: HPV Vaccination and Screening:
    • Strategies for cervical cancer prevention hinge on two key approaches:
      • HPV vaccination and screening for precancerous lesions.
      • German scientist Harald zur Hausen’s 1983 demonstration linking cervical cancer to specific types of papillomaviruses paved the way for these preventive measures.
    • Current Status and Tragic Disparities:
      • Despite the potential for cervical cancer elimination, many lower-resourced communities lack effective intervention programs.
      • The prevalence of cervical cancer remains a significant public health issue.
      • The World Health Organization (WHO) advocates a comprehensive 90-70-90 triple-pillar intervention strategy by 2030, emphasizing high-quality and equitable healthcare services.
    • WHO’s Intervention Targets:
      • Vaccination: Achieve a 90% vaccination rate for girls with the HPV vaccine by age 15.
      • Screening: Ensure 70% of women undergo high-performance screening tests by ages 35 and 45.
      • Treatment and Care: Provide treatment and care for 90% of women identified with cervical pre-cancer and cancer lesions.
    • Promoting HPV Vaccination for Cervical Cancer Prevention in India
      • A recent report emphasizes India’s G20 presidency commitment to promoting equitable access to vaccines, particularly for lower- and middle-income countries.
      • It highlights the inclusion of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine in India’s Universal Immunization Programme in 2023, signaling a significant step in preventing cervical cancer.
    • Current Accessibility Challenges: Private Market and Physician Perceptions
      • The report identifies challenges in widespread access to the HPV vaccine in India, as it is currently available in the private market with a significant out-of-pocket cost.
      • Physician perceptions play a role, with many underestimating the incidence and risks of cervical cancer and HPV infection.
      • Lack of trust in vaccine safety and efficacy, coupled with concerns about the mode of transmission through intimate contact, contributes to hesitancy in recommending the HPV vaccine.
    • Initiatives by Medical Societies: FOGSI and IAP Collaboration
      • The Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI) and the Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP), with a combined membership of over 80,000 physicians, have collaborated to support the anticipated national roll-out of the HPV vaccine.
      • Their joint efforts aim to remind physicians, especially obstetricians-gynecologists and pediatricians, about the importance of HPV vaccination and share best practices for effective communication with parents.
    • Facts and Best Practices: Communication and Vaccination Schedule
      • The HPV vaccine is highlighted as safe and effective, preventing six HPV-related cancers, with five occurring in women.
      • Recommending the vaccine to adolescents from the age of 9 is endorsed as part of the IAP immunization schedule.
      • The FOGSI Good Clinical Practice Recommendations reinforce HPV vaccination for the primary age group of 9-14 years and advocate regular screening for women above 30.
      • The goal is to create 20,000 HPV physician champions within FOGSI and IAP by mid-2024, who will promote the importance of HPV vaccination among peers and the community.
    • Physicians’ Role as Leaders: Eliminating Cervical Cancer in India
      • Recognizing physicians as respected leaders and trusted sources of health-related information, the collaborative efforts of FOGSI and IAP aim to leverage their influence to eliminate cervical cancer in India.
      • Their initiative seeks to ensure every girl is protected from cervical cancer through HPV vaccination, and women are safeguarded through regular cervical screening.

About the Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a group of viruses that can infect the genital and oral areas of both males and females.
  • It is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) worldwide.
  • HPV infections are usually transient and asymptomatic, but persistent infections with high-risk HPV types can lead to various cancers, particularly cervical cancer.
  • There are more than 100 different types of HPV, and they are categorized into low-risk and high-risk types based on their association with cancer.

About Universal Immunization Programme (UIP)

  • The Expanded Programme on Immunization was initiated in 1978, later renamed the Universal Immunization Programme (UIP) in 1985, expanding its reach beyond urban areas.
  • Integrated into the Child Survival and Safe Motherhood Programme in 1992, it became part of the National Reproductive and Child Health Programme in 1997.
  • Since the launch of the National Rural Health Mission in 2005, UIP has been a fundamental component.
  • Scale and Scope:
    • UIP targets approximately 2.67 crore newborns and 2.9 crore pregnant women annually, making it one of the largest public health programs.
    • Considered one of the most cost-effective public health interventions, UIP significantly contributes to reducing vaccine-preventable under-5 mortality rates.
  • Diseases Covered:
    • Free immunization is provided against 12 vaccine-preventable diseases, nationally addressing 9, including Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus, Polio, Measles, Rubella, Tuberculosis, Hepatitis B, Meningitis & Pneumonia, and sub-nationally against 3, including Rotavirus diarrhoea, Pneumococcal Pneumonia, and Japanese Encephalitis.
  • Full Immunization Criterion:
    • A child is considered fully immunized if all due vaccines, as per the national immunization schedule, are received within the first year of the child’s age.
  • Major Achievements:
    • Key milestones include the eradication of polio in 2014 and the elimination of maternal and neonatal tetanus in 2015.
  • Mission Indradhanush: Enhancing Immunization Coverage
    • Launch and Objectives: Launched in December 2014, Mission Indradhanush aims to achieve a 90% full immunization coverage for children.
      • It specifically targets areas with low coverage and hard-to-reach regions, focusing on unvaccinated and partially vaccinated children.
    • Phases and Coverage:
      • Six phases of Mission Indradhanush have been completed, covering 554 districts nationwide.
      • It was integrated into flagship schemes such as Gram Swaraj Abhiyan and Extended Gram Swaraj Abhiyan, spanning thousands of villages.
    • Impact and Survey Results:
      • The first two phases resulted in a 6.7% increase in full immunization coverage within a year.
      • A recent survey in 190 districts covered during the Intensified Mission Indradhanush (5th phase) showed an impressive 18.5% point increase in full immunization coverage compared to the NFHS-4 survey conducted in 2015-16.

The status of India’s nuclear programme

Source : The Hindu

Prime Minister Narendra Modi marked a historic moment in India’s nuclear power program on March 4 by witnessing the commencement of core-loading for the indigenous Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) at the Madras Atomic Power Station in Kalpakkam, Tamil Nadu.

Key Highlights

  • PFBR: A Fissile Fuel Producer
    • The PFBR is a groundbreaking machine designed to generate more nuclear fuel than it consumes, signifying a significant milestone in India’s nuclear power strategy.
    • The successful operationalization of PFBR marks the initiation of stage II in India’s three-stage nuclear power program.
  • Three-Stage Nuclear Power Program: A Strategic Approach
    • Stage I – PHWRs and Natural Uranium:
      • In the initial stage, India utilized Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) and natural uranium-238 (U-238) with trace amounts of U-235 as the fissile material.
      • Heavy water in PHWRs facilitated nuclear fission reactions, producing plutonium-239 (Pu-239) and energy.
    • Stage II – PFBR and Pu-239:
      • India transitions to stage II with the PFBR, utilizing Pu-239 and U-238 to generate energy, U-233, and additional Pu-239.
      • A special-purpose vehicle called Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam, Ltd. (BHAVINI), established by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) in 2003, oversees the implementation of stage II.
    • Stage III – Pu-239 and Thorium-232:
      • In the final stage, Pu-239 is combined with thorium-232 (Th-232) in reactors to produce energy and U-233.
      • Conceived by Homi J. Bhabha, this three-stage program leverages India’s significant thorium resources, aiming for complete self-sufficiency in nuclear energy.
    • Strategic Design: Ensuring Self-Sufficiency
      • The three-stage nuclear power program strategically addresses the consumption of fissile materials, ensuring the sustainable production of nuclear fuel.
      • The abundance of thorium in India positions the country for self-sufficiency in nuclear energy, with the three-stage approach providing a comprehensive and innovative solution.
    • Background: PFBR and Its Significance
      • The Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) in India, a key component of the three-stage nuclear power program, has faced considerable delays, cost escalations, and criticisms.
    • Causes and Challenges Leading to Delay:
      • The Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) at Kalpakkam served as a testing ground for PFBR technologies. Construction of FBTR was completed by 1977.
      • However, sanctions following India’s nuclear test in 1974 impacted the reactor, leading to alterations in fuel type and operating conditions.
      • Project Green-Lit in 2003:
        • The Indian government approved the PFBR project in 2003.
        • However, by this time, many personnel associated with the Fast Breeder Test Reactor were either nearing retirement or had already retired.
      • Initial Cost and Deadline:
        • Originally budgeted at Rs 3,492 crore with a 2010 deadline, the PFBR’s cost and timeline were significantly revised over the years.
        • In 2012, the Department of Atomic Energy sought additional funds and extended the deadline to March 2015, allocating Rs 5,677 crore.
        • Subsequent shifts in deadlines, from 2015 to 2022, were accompanied by cost escalations, reaching Rs 6,800 crore by 2019.
      • Procurement Challenges:
        • An audit in 2014 by the Comptroller and Auditor General identified procurement challenges.
        • Over-reliance on the Nuclear Power Corporation of India resulted in delays, with a “median delay” of 158 days per purchase order.
        • The reactor coolant presented technical difficulties, contributing to project delays.
        • The Comptroller and Auditor General’s 2014 audit pointed out procurement shortcomings, indicating a lack of diversification in suppliers.
        • Delays in the placement of purchase orders were a significant concern, leading to additional time and cost implications.
      • Working of PFBR: Producing Fissile Material
        • Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) use natural or low-enriched uranium-238 (U-238) as fissile material, generating plutonium-239 (Pu-239) as a byproduct.
        • PFBR takes this Pu-239, combines it with additional U-238 in a mixed oxide, and places it in the reactor core along with a blanket material.
        • The blanket reacts with fission products, producing more Pu-239.
        • Breeder Reactor Concept:
          • PFBR operates as a ‘fast’ breeder reactor, where neutrons are not slowed down, allowing them to trigger specific fission reactions.
          • The reactor is designed to generate more fissile material (Pu-239) than it consumes.
        • Coolant System:
          • PFBR employs liquid sodium, a highly reactive substance, as a coolant in two circuits.
          • The first circuit carries coolant into the reactor, extracting heat energy and radioactivity.
          • Through heat-exchangers, this heat is transferred to the coolant in a secondary circuit, which, in turn, generates electricity in generators.
        • Role of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs):
          • Delays in PFBR construction raise concerns, and Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) emerge as a potential alternative.
          • SMRs have a maximum capacity of 300 MW, require less land, and incorporate enhanced safety features.
          • SMRs are seen as complementary to conventional facilities, offering reduced installation costs and time by repurposing existing infrastructure in brownfield sites.
          • To enhance SMRs’ contribution, amendments to the Atomic Energy Act (1962) and related statutes are proposed.
          • These amendments would allow private sector participation under the oversight of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), with the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) maintaining control over nuclear fuel and waste, subject to international safeguards.