CURRENT AFFAIRS – 07/11/2023

CURRENT AFFAIRS - 07/11/2023

CURRENT AFFAIRS – 07/11/2023

CURRENT AFFAIRS – 07/11/2023

Don’t ignore the threat of antimicrobial resistance

(General Studies- Paper III)

Source : The Indian Express

During India’s G20 presidency, the Delhi Declaration was established, aiming to strengthen the global health architecture.

  • It focused on building resilient, equitable, sustainable, and inclusive health systems, implementing the One Health approach, enhancing pandemic preparedness, and strengthening infectious disease surveillance systems.


Key Highlights

  • Prioritizing Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)
    • An essential part of the agreement was the commitment to tackle Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR).
    • This involved various strategies, including research and development (R&D), infection prevention and control, and antimicrobial stewardship efforts within National Action Plans (NAPs).
  • Equitable Access to Medical Countermeasures
    • The declaration also emphasized the need to facilitate equitable access to safe, effective, and affordable vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, and other medical countermeasures.
    • This was particularly targeted at Low- and Middle-Income Countries, Least Developed Countries, and Small Island Developing States.
  • Alarming Impact of Bacterial AMR
    • A 2021 report by Lancet highlighted the severity of bacterial AMR.
    • It estimated that 4.95 million deaths were associated with bacterial AMR, with 1.27 million deaths directly attributed to it.
    • This mortality rate was comparable to diseases like HIV and malaria.
    • Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia had the highest death rates, indicating a significant susceptibility to AMR.
    • The rising levels of antimicrobial resistance, largely driven by excessive antimicrobial use, pose a severe threat not only to public health gains in infectious diseases but also jeopardize treatments like cancer and transplants.
    • The G20 countries, with over 60% of the global population, play a crucial role in addressing this issue.
    • The inclusion of Africa, with 17.89% of the global population, expands the coalition’s reach but raises concerns due to low healthcare infrastructure investments in many low and middle-income countries.
  • Implementing the Declaration: For the Delhi Declaration’s intent to translate into implementable action, it will require concerted efforts at both the global and local levels. Some key areas that can be prioritized at the global level include:
    • Regional AMR Action Plans:
      • Collaborating with developing countries to create regional AMR action plans.
      • While most G20 countries have well-developed NAPs, their effectiveness varies due to differences in policy, planning, performance, and patient and public engagement.
    • International Funding for AMR R&D
      • G20 countries are urged to champion an international funding mechanism focused on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) research and development.
      • This approach would facilitate the financing of critical research efforts to combat AMR.
    • Patent Reforms and Innovation for Affordable Antibiotics
      • Efforts should be made to promote patent reforms to foster innovation and ensure affordability in the development of new antibiotics.
      • Dialogue among developing countries to explore models like the Medicines Patent Pool could be instrumental in achieving this goal.
    • Local-Level Prioritization and Implementation
      • At the local level, countries need to prioritize the implementation of their National Action Plans (NAPs) on AMR.
      • India, as an example, was one of the first countries to develop a comprehensive NAP on AMR (NAP-AMR) in 2017.
      • However, sub-optimal implementation occurred due to a lack of leadership and resources.
    • Emphasis on Surveillance and Research
      • NAP-AMR places special focus on surveillance and research, emphasizing innovative, affordable interventions and implementation.
      • There is an emphasis on inter-sectoral connections between human, animal, plant health, and the environment.
      • Expanding the scope of existing monitoring networks, currently limited to a few tertiary care hospitals, is seen as essential to better understand the extent of the AMR problem.
    • Government Initiatives and Responsible Behaviour
      • Government initiatives like Free Diagnostic Services and Kayakalp, along with adherence to Indian Public Health Standards, have the potential to strengthen AMR containment efforts.
      • Promoting responsible behaviour among citizens through education about the dangers of overusing antibiotics is vital.
      • Engaging academia and civil society organizations (CSOs) is seen as essential in these efforts.
    • Role of Academia and Civil Society Organizations
      • Academia can contribute by better understanding the environmental dimensions of AMR, developing new technologies, and providing training and education to healthcare professionals.
      • CSOs can play a crucial role in raising awareness and advocating for policy changes, similar to their impact in TB and HIV/AIDS programs.
      • Currently, there has been little CSO engagement in AMR containment efforts in India.
    • AMR as a Looming Threat
      • AMR, with an annual death toll similar to Covid-19, represents a clear and present danger.
      • The urgency, investment, and prioritization applied to Covid-19 should also be directed towards AMR.
    • Examples from Other Nations
      • Several countries, including Indonesia, Australia, Brazil, the UK, and the US, have taken steps to address AMR.
      • These efforts include national surveillance plans, prioritizing animal health, reducing antibiotic use, and investing in research to develop new diagnostics, drugs, and vaccines.
    • India’s Potential Leadership
      • India has taken steps in the right direction but can further lead by expanding the scope of surveillance and monitoring networks, promoting responsible behaviour among citizens, and encouraging collaboration among nations to reduce the burden of AMR.


What is Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)?

  • Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) refers to the ability of microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites, to evolve in a way that renders antimicrobial drugs, including antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals, and antiparasitics, ineffective in treating the infections they cause.
  • In essence, AMR means that the microorganisms become resistant to the drugs meant to kill or inhibit their growth.
  • How AMR Develops?
    • AMR develops through a natural evolutionary process where microorganisms adapt to the selective pressure exerted by antimicrobial agents.
    • This adaptation can occur in several ways:
      • Mutation: Microbes can develop genetic mutations that make them less susceptible to the action of antimicrobial drugs.
      • Horizontal Gene Transfer: Bacteria can exchange genetic material with one another, sharing resistance genes, which can rapidly spread resistance within and between species.
      • Overuse and Misuse of Antimicrobials: Excessive or inappropriate use of antimicrobial drugs in healthcare, agriculture, and veterinary practices accelerates the development of resistance.
      • Inadequate Dosage and Duration: When patients do not complete a full course of prescribed antibiotics or take lower-than-required doses, surviving microbes may develop resistance.
    • Consequences of AMR:
      • AMR has far-reaching consequences for public health, agriculture, and the global economy:
        • Increased Mortality: Infections that were once easily treatable can become deadly due to the ineffectiveness of existing drugs.
        • Prolonged Illness: AMR can lead to longer durations of illness, more severe symptoms, and a higher likelihood of complications.
        • Healthcare Costs: Treating AMR-related infections can be more expensive and resource-intensive, straining healthcare systems.
      • Reduced Effectiveness of Medical Procedures: Surgical procedures, cancer treatments, and organ transplants become riskier when AMR compromises the efficacy of preventive antibiotics.
      • Economic Impact: AMR can disrupt food production, agriculture, and trade, leading to economic losses.

Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR): Other Key Facts

  • Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) poses a global health and development threat and is closely tied to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified AMR as one of the top 10 global public health threats.
  • Inadequate access to clean water and sanitation, along with insufficient infection prevention and control measures, contribute to the spread of microbes, some of which may be resistant to antimicrobial treatment.
  • AMR carries a significant economic cost, leading to death, disability, longer hospital stays, the need for more expensive medicines, and financial challenges for affected individuals.
  • Effective antimicrobials are crucial for the success of modern medicine in treating infections, including in major surgeries and cancer chemotherapy, and their diminishing effectiveness poses a substantial risk to medical advancements.


About National Action Plans (NAPs) on AMR: India

  • India’s National Action Plan for AMR was launched in April 2017 by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
  • The plan outlines various objectives and strategies to combat AMR in the country.
  • It was also submitted at the 70th World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva in May 2017.
  • Objectives of the NAP
    • Improving awareness about AMR
    • Enhancing surveillance measures to track resistant pathogens
    • Strengthening infection prevention and control practices
    • Fostering research and development in the field
    • Promoting investments in combating AMR
    • Encouraging collaborative activities to control AMR
  • The Challenge of AMR in India
    • Easy Access to Medicines:
      • Over-the-counter availability of antibiotics in medical stores without a prescription has led to their widespread and often inappropriate use.
    • Self-Medication:
      • People frequently resort to self-medication based on hearsay or information gathered from the internet, often without professional guidance.
    • Limited Laboratory Services:
      • Lack of access to and utilization of laboratory services for cultures and antibiotic susceptibility testing hinder proper diagnosis and treatment.
    • Varied Medical Practices:
      • Inconsistent approaches by healthcare providers, including empirical and sometimes incorrect use of antibiotics, contribute to AMR.
    • Regulatory Issues:
      • The lax implementation of policies and controls by regulatory authorities, such as those related to prescription-only medicines (Schedule H1), has facilitated misuse.
    • Diverse Perceptions:
      • Varying perceptions of demand and expectations among key stakeholders and ethical challenges among healthcare professionals can influence the use of antibiotics.
    • Unethical Commercial Practices:
      • Unethical promotion of antibiotics in large quantities has been observed, further driving their overuse.
    • Non-Medical Providers:
      • The use of antibiotics by non-medical and informal healthcare providers, who may lack proper training, adds to the problem.

Priorities outlined in the National Action Plan for antimicrobial resistance in India

Mother, Child and the Poshan Tracker

(General Studies- Paper II)

Source : Indian Express

The Poshan Tracker, initiated by the Government of India, has emerged as a ground-breaking mobile phone nutrition monitoring system, setting a global precedent for its scale and integration into national systems.

  • This system has been widely adopted by Anganwadi workers across all states and Union territories in India, representing a significant step in addressing malnutrition and promoting transparency and accountability in nutrition service delivery.


Key Highlights

  • Universal Uptake:
    • Within just two years of its inception, the Poshan Tracker has achieved near-universal adoption, with nearly 1.3 million Anganwadi workers actively using the app for monitoring Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS).
  • The Poshan Tracker has been made central to the Poshan 2.0 guidelines released by the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
  • It serves as an ICT-enabled platform designed to ensure transparency and accountability in delivering nutrition services to the last mile.
  • Scope and Scale:
    • The Poshan Tracker has reached an unparalleled scale in terms of monitoring.
    • It currently collects height and weight data for 72 million children under the age of five.
    • This represents real-time monitoring of over 50% of the total child population under five in India, which is around 113 million according to UN data projections.
    • An impressive 94% of the beneficiaries are Aadhar-verified, enhancing the accuracy and reliability of the data captured by the Poshan Tracker.
  • Data Captured:The Poshan Tracker captures a wide range of data, including beneficiary data and national, state, and district-level indicators. This information includes:
    • Anganwadi Infrastructure:
      • It monitors the number of Anganwadicenters, their facilities (toilets and drinking water), and whether they are operational for service delivery.
    • Beneficiary Services:
      • The system tracks the number of beneficiaries who receive take-home rations and hot cooked meals, ensuring that they are getting the required nutrition.
    • Nutritional Outcomes:
      • It monitors the nutritional outcomes of the program, helping assess its effectiveness in preventing malnutrition.
    • Real-Time Feedback Loop:
      • The Poshan Tracker acts as a real-time feedback loop for frontline workers, enabling them to identify children at risk of malnutrition at an early stage.
      • It targets beneficiaries facing acute malnutrition and ensures effective delivery of ICDS services.
    • Modules of the Poshan Tracker:
      • Beneficiary Registration:
        • The Poshan Tracker offers modules for beneficiary registration, daily tracking, and home visit scheduling for Anganwadi workers.
      • Growth Monitoring:
        • It includes growth monitoring for height and weight, adhering to WHO standards.
      • Migration Facility:
        • A feature accommodates beneficiaries who move to another Anganwadicenter within or outside the state.
      • Key Performance Indicator Dashboard:
        • A dashboard for monitoring performance in underperforming districts.
      • Community Engagement Portal:
        • A portal for reporting community engagements on nutrition promotion.
      • Tribal and Border Area Modules:
        • Specific modules are in development for AWCs in tribal and border areas.
      • Improving Accuracy and Timeliness:
        • A 2015 evaluation in Indonesia showed that mobile apps improved growth monitoring accuracy by 80%, particularly for underweight children.
      • Reduction in Errors:
        • The Poshan Tracker’s automatic calculations based on WHO growth charts reduce errors in manual calculations.
      • Granularity of Data:
        • The Poshan Tracker provides granular, real-time beneficiary-wise data, addressing variability in malnutrition rates.
      • Timeliness:
        • The Poshan Tracker eliminates delays associated with paper-based reporting by enabling real-time data transmission to government offices.
      • Efficiency for Anganwadi Workers:
        • The app’s user-friendliness and efficiency in retrieving child information save time and support nutritional promotion activities.
      • Challenges and Sustainability:
        • Worker Overburden:
          • Recognizing the heavy workload of Anganwadi workers, the Poshan Tracker must be regularly updated based on their feedback to ensure user-friendliness.
        • Skill-Building and Technical Assistance:
          • Ongoing investment in skill-building and technical support is essential for the system’s sustainability.
        • Data as a Tool:
          • Emphasizing that data is a means to an end, investments should focus on delivering essential services when malnutrition is detected.
        • Actionable Outcomes:
          • The Poshan Tracker’s data can catalyze actionable outcomes at the grassroots level in alignment with the objectives outlined in Poshan 2.0 guidelines.


What is PoshanAbhiyan?

  • The PoshanAbhiyaan (also known as the National Nutrition Mission or National Nutrition Campaign) is a government scheme in India aimed at addressing the issue of malnutrition and improving the nutritional status of women and children.
  • It was launched in March 2018 by the Government of India and is part of the broader National Nutrition Strategy.
  • Objectives:
    • The primary objectives of the PoshanAbhiyaan are to reduce malnutrition, stunting, undernutrition, and anemia among women and children.
    • It also aims to promote healthy eating habits, optimal breastfeeding practices, and balanced nutrition for pregnant and lactating women.
    • The scheme seeks to address malnutrition holistically and comprehensively, focusing on both health and nutrition.
  • Target Beneficiaries:
    • The scheme primarily targets pregnant and lactating women, as well as children under the age of 6 years.
    • It also aims to improve the nutritional status of adolescent girls.
  • Components:The PoshanAbhiyaan comprises multiple components, including:
    • Supplementary Nutrition: Providing nutritious food to pregnant and lactating women and children through Anganwadicenters.
    • Health and Nutrition Education: Raising awareness about proper nutrition and health practices.
    • Growth Monitoring: Regularly tracking the growth of children to identify malnutrition.
    • Anemia Control: Preventing and treating anemia among women and children.
    • Dietary Diversification: Encouraging the consumption of a diverse and balanced diet.
    • Convergence and Use of Technology: Integrating various government programs and using technology for effective implementation.
  • Implementation:
    • The scheme is implemented through Anganwadicenters, which are village-level childcare and maternal care centers.
    • It involves the active participation of Anganwadi workers and Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) to deliver nutrition services.
    • PoshanAbhiyaan emphasizes the convergence of various government programs related to health, nutrition, and sanitation.


Poshan 2.0

  • PoshanAbhiyan is now part of Mission SakshamAnganwadi and Poshan 2.0.
  • Promotes diet diversity, food fortification, traditional knowledge systems, and millet utilization.
  • Aims to bridge dietary gaps through regional meal plans.
  • Greater emphasis on using millets in Hot Cooked Meals and Take Home Rations at Anganwadicenters.
  • Millets are rich in nutrients, including protein, essential fatty acids, dietary fiber, B-Vitamins, minerals (e.g., calcium, iron, zinc, folic acid), and micro-nutrients.
  • Encourages the use of fortified rice.
  • Improves nutritional quality, testing, delivery, and leverages technology through the ‘Poshan Tracker’ for real-time monitoring.
  • Implementation and Equipment:
    • PoshanAbhiyan is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme implemented by States/UTs.
    • Implementation of the scheme is the responsibility of the States/Union Territories (States/UTs).
    • Focus on equipping all AnganwadiCenters with smartphones and Growth Monitoring devices (GMDs), such as Infantometer, Stadiometer, and Weighing Scale for Mother and Infant.

A telco double dip attempt that threatens Net neutrality

(General Studies- Paper II)

Source : TH

In July, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) initiated a consultation on regulating Over-The-Top (OTT) services, sparking controversy.

  • Telecom companies argue that OTT services should share the costs of bandwidth, claiming they benefit from telecom infrastructure.


Key Highlights

  • Telecom Revenue Challenges:
    • Over the past decade, telecom companies have faced declining revenues from traditional services like voice calls and SMS.
    • Heavy infrastructure investments have been required to handle increased data traffic, without proportional revenue growth.
    • Telecom companies claim that OTT services evade taxation and licensing fees, creating an uneven playing field.
  • Benefits of OTT Services:
    • OTT platforms provide content consumers desire, stimulating demand for internet access.
    • OTT platforms invest in content delivery networks (CDNs) to enhance internet capacity for content delivery.
    • Telecom companies capitalize on increased demand for internet access and charge subscribers for connectivity services.
  • The Flawed Argument:
    • Telecom companies’ argument that OTT platforms should subsidize bandwidth costs is fundamentally flawed.
    • Telecom companies do not own the internet; they provide access to it for which consumers pay.
    • Cross-subsidies undermine the principle of net neutrality and might invite scrutiny from the Competition Commission.
  • Distinct Markets:
    • Internet access and OTT services are distinct markets.
    • Consumers choose internet providers based on bandwidth, data volume, and reliability at affordable prices.
    • Consumers select OTT platforms based on content variety, quality, streaming quality, and availability on multiple devices.
  • Double Dipping Concerns:
    • Telcos seeking to charge both consumers and content providers is considered avaricious and detrimental to net neutrality.
    • It could lead to increased subscription fees or reduced service quality, affecting OTT service consumers negatively.
    • Such additional costs imposed on content providers would result in higher costs for subscribers, affecting their ability to access OTT services.
  • Impact on Consumers:
    • Any additional costs imposed on OTT services could lead to increased subscription fees or reduced service quality, negatively affecting consumers who rely on these services for entertainment, education, and professional pursuits.
  • Definition and Origin:
    • Net neutrality is the principle that Internet access providers must treat all internet traffic equally.
    • The term “net neutrality” was coined by Tim Wu in a 2003 paper, emphasizing a level playing field on the internet.
    • It aims to prevent discrimination by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and ensure that all data is treated equally.
    • Net neutrality draws from the concept of common carriage, asserting that service should be provided on a non-discriminatory basis.
    • Applying these principles to the modern internet required fresh legal and policy analysis.
  • Basis of TRAI Regulation:
    • TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) implemented regulations on discriminatory tariffs for data services in 2016, inspired by the principles of net neutrality.
    • These actions led to the withdrawal of Facebook’s Free Basics platform and other offerings in India.
    • TRAI’s comprehensive recommendations in 2017 have significantly influenced the adoption of net neutrality principles in India.
  • Global Recognition:
    • The international community acknowledged TRAI’s steps in this regard.
    • TRAI and the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) cooperated on net neutrality initiatives, reaffirmed in 2020.
    • Numerous countries worldwide have also embraced net neutrality.
  • Long-Term Implications:
    • It is crucial for all stakeholders, including policymakers, to understand the long-term consequences of succumbing to the short-sighted demands of telecom companies.
    • Net neutrality is about preserving an open internet and fostering an environment conducive to innovation, competition, and consumer welfare, especially in countries like India, where the internet is vital for Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI).
  • Significance of Net Neutrality:
    • Net neutrality serves as a cornerstone of a fair and open internet.
    • It ensures that all internet traffic is treated equally, without favouring certain content or services over others.
    • The principle is essential for innovation, competition, and the protection of consumer rights, particularly in countries where the internet is integral to public infrastructure.


About the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI)

  • The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is the regulatory body responsible for overseeing and regulating the telecommunications sector in India.
  • It was established under the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997.
  • Mandate:
    • TRAI’s primary mandate is to ensure fair competition and transparency in the telecommunications industry in India.
    • It aims to protect the interests of consumers and promote the orderly growth and development of the telecom sector.
  • Functions:
    • Licensing and Regulation: TRAI is responsible for issuing licenses and regulating telecommunications services and network providers in India.
    • Tariff Regulation: It determines and regulates tariffs for telecommunications services to ensure they are reasonable and non-discriminatory.
    • Consumer Protection: TRAI works to safeguard the interests of consumers, addressing their complaints and concerns related to the quality of services, billing, and more.
    • Competition Promotion: It promotes and ensures fair competition in the telecom sector, preventing anti-competitive practices.
    • Spectrum Management: TRAI plays a key role in spectrum allocation, pricing, and management.
    • Policy Formulation: It formulates policies and recommendations related to the telecom sector, including broadband access, quality of service, and more.
    • Dispute Resolution: TRAI facilitates dispute resolution between service providers and consumers.
  • TRAI consists of a Chairperson and up to six full-time members, each appointed by the central government.

More light, less sound

(General Studies- Paper II and III)

Source : TH

Firecrackers are an integral part of festive celebrations worldwide but often raise issues of noise and toxicity.

  • In 2018, ‘green’ firecrackers were introduced as a less noxious and less noisy alternative.
  • Regulations exist, but enforcement and understanding the impact of noise pollution remain challenges.


Key Highlights

  • Regulations and Thresholds:
    • The Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules 2000 set specific regulations for firecracker use.
    • They restrict the bursting of firecrackers in ‘silence zones’ and beyond 10 p.m.
    • Noise limits during the day are set at 75 dB(A) Leq, while thresholds in commercial and residential areas are 65 dB(A) Leq and 55 dB(A) Leq, respectively.
    • Citizens can file complaints if noise exceeds these limits by 10 dB(A) Leq during the daytime.
  • Impacts of Noise Pollution:
    • Noise pollution has been linked to various health issues, including sleep disorders, tinnitus, stress, anxiety, hearing loss, and cardiac problems.
    • A 10 dB increase corresponds to a tenfold increase in acoustic pressure and may surpass safe limits.
    • Loud noise during the night can elevate cortisol levels and disrupt sleep.
  • Ineffective Regulations and Enforcement:
    • The rules are often not strictly enforced, and penalties for violations are unclear.
    • Differentiation between residential and commercial areas is problematic, as many places serve both purposes.
    • Noise data access is limited, and noise mitigation targets are not well-defined.
  • The Need for Comprehensive Solutions:
    • Relying solely on marginal improvements to firecrackers may not address the larger issue of noise pollution.
    • Noise pollution is a public health crisis, and governments need to address it comprehensively.
    • Measures include preventing the production of non-compliant firecrackers and improving access to noise data.

Explaining: Noise Pollution

  • Noise pollution refers to the presence of unwanted or harmful sound that disrupts normal living conditions, causing discomfort, annoyance, or health problems.
  • It is typically characterized by the presence of excessive, loud, or disturbing sounds in the environment.
  • Decibels (dB):
    • Noise is measured in decibels (dB), which represent the intensity or level of sound.
    • The decibel scale is logarithmic, meaning that each increase of 10 dB corresponds to a tenfold increase in sound intensity.
    • For example, a sound at 70 dB is 10 times more intense than a sound at 60 dB.
  • Common Metrics:
    • L_eq (Equivalent Continuous Noise Level): It is the average noise level over a specified period, typically one hour.
    • L_max (Maximum Noise Level): The highest noise level recorded during a given time frame.
    • L_min (Minimum Noise Level): The lowest noise level recorded during a given time frame.
  • Sources of Noise Pollution:
    • Transportation Noise: Road traffic, aircraft, and railway noise.
    • Industrial Noise: Machinery, factories, construction sites.
    • Community Noise: Noise from recreational activities, events, and social gatherings.
    • Natural Noise: Noise from natural sources like thunderstorms, earthquakes, and wildlife.
  • Challenges of Noise Pollution:
    • Health Impact: Prolonged exposure to high noise levels can lead to a range of health problems, including hearing loss, cardiovascular issues, sleep disturbances, and stress-related disorders.
    • Quality of Life: Noise pollution reduces the overall quality of life for individuals and communities, leading to increased stress, annoyance, and reduced concentration.
    • Environmental Impact: Wildlife can be adversely affected, and ecosystems can be disrupted by excessive noise.
    • Regulation and Enforcement: Regulating and enforcing noise pollution standards can be challenging due to varying sources and perceptions of noise.
  • Solutions for Noise Pollution:
    • Noise Barriers: Construct barriers along highways and railways to reduce noise levels in adjacent residential areas.
    • Noise-Reducing Technologies: Use quieter equipment and technologies in industrial and construction activities.
    • Urban Planning: Plan and design urban areas to reduce noise exposure through zoning and soundproofing measures.
    • Public Awareness: Increase public awareness about the health impacts of noise pollution and promote responsible behaviour.
    • Regulation and Enforcement: Implement and enforce noise pollution regulations, including zoning laws, permissible noise levels, and penalties for violations.
    • Green Spaces: Create green spaces in urban areas to act as natural sound buffers.

India, Bhutan to discuss new routes of regional connectivity

(General Studies- Paper II)

Source : TH

India and Bhutan have agreed to explore new routes for regional connectivity and enhance border infrastructure.

  • The discussions took place during a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bhutan’s 5th King Jigme KhesarNamgyelWangchuck in Delhi.
  • The focus is on supporting Bhutan’s plans for a smart city at Gelephu, located on the border between Bhutan and Assam.


Key Highlights

  • Bilateral Cooperation:
    • The leaders held talks on various aspects of bilateral cooperation, regional issues, and mutual interests.
    • While the boundary delimitation agreement process between Bhutan and China was not explicitly mentioned, it remains an overhanging concern.
    • India and Bhutan are moving forward with the final survey for a 58 km cross-border rail link between Gelephu and Kokrajhar in Assam.
    • Another 18 km rail link is under consideration, connecting Samtse in Bhutan to Banarhat in West Bengal, traversing tea gardens.
    • India has agreed to allow Bhutanese trade items to be transported from Haldibari in West Bengal to Chilahati in Bangladesh, enhancing regional trade.
  • Air Connectivity and Special Economic Zone:
    • The rail connectivity could potentially support air connectivity in the northeastern region of India.
    • Bhutan is planning to build an international airport at Gelephu as part of a larger Special Economic Zone in the Sarpang district.
  • Development Assistance and Five-Year Plans:
    • India has been providing development assistance to Bhutan, supporting its 12th Five-Year Plan, which concluded in October 2023.
    • Both countries reaffirmed their commitment to continue support for Bhutan’s new 13th Five-Year Plan.
    • This assistance demonstrates India’s commitment to Bhutan’s economic and social development.
  • Cross-Border Rail Links and Immigration Check Post:
    • India and Bhutan have approved cross-border rail link projects, enhancing connectivity between the two countries.
    • The Darranga-SamdrupJongkhar border crossing between Assam and Bhutan will be designated as an immigration check post, allowing third-country nationals to enter and exit.
    • This move aims to promote tourism and further strengthen connectivity between the two nations.
  • Trade Infrastructure and Special Economic Zone (SEZ):
    • Both countries will upgrade the land customs station at Dadgiri (Assam) to an “Integrated Check Post” (ICP).
    • Facilities on the Bhutanese side at Gelephu will also be developed, supporting Bhutan’s SEZ project.
    • These developments aim to facilitate trade and travel, fostering economic opportunities and tourism revenue for Bhutan.
  • Challenges for Bhutan:
    • Bhutan’s economy has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and strict lockdown measures.
    • The country is experiencing net out-migration of its youth in search of education and employment opportunities abroad.
    • Bhutan faces challenges related to low foreign exchange reserves, significant public debt, and the need for economic growth.
  • Bhutan’s Vision for Gelephu and SEZ:
    • King Jigme Khesar’s plans for Gelephu and the special economic zone (SEZ) aim to create employment and tourism opportunities in Bhutan.
    • Collaboration with top business houses in Mumbai is expected to explore investment and infrastructure projects.



Summary of India-Bhutan Relations

  • Diplomatic relations between India and Bhutan were established in 1968 with the creation of a Special Office of India in Thimphu.
  • Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation:
    • The foundational framework of India-Bhutan relations is the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation, initially signed in 1949 and revised in February 2007.
  • Trade and Economic Ties:
    • The India-Bhutan Agreement on Trade, Commerce, and Transit fosters a free trade regime.
    • India is Bhutan’s primary trade partner, both in terms of imports and exports, with a trade balance in India’s favor.
    • India’s top exports to Bhutan include petrol, passenger cars, rice, and more.
    • Key imports from Bhutan to India include electricity, Ferro-silicon, cement, cardamoms, and more.
  • Investment and Business Presence:
    • India is a significant source of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Bhutan, comprising 50% of the country’s total FDI.
    • Several Indian companies operate in Bhutan across sectors, including banking, manufacturing, electricity generation, and education.
  • Development Partnership:
    • India has been a vital contributor to Bhutan’s socio-economic development since the 1960s.
    • India continues to be Bhutan’s primary development partner, supporting various sectors, including agriculture, health, education, and infrastructure.
    • Over 82 large and intermediate projects and 524 Small Development Projects are in progress.
  • Hydropower Cooperation:
    • Mutual cooperation in hydropower development is a cornerstone of economic collaboration.
    • Revenue from hydropower projects significantly contributes to Bhutan’s overall revenues.
    • Till date the Government of India has constructed four major hydro-electric projects (HEPs).
      • Chukha Hydro-Electric Project (HEP):
        • Capacity: 336 MW
        • One of the early hydropower projects constructed by the Government of India in Bhutan.
      • Kurichhu Hydro-Electric Project (HEP):
        • Capacity: 60 MW
      • Tala Hydro-Electric Project (HEP):
        • Capacity: 1020 MW
      • Mangdechhu Hydro-Electric Project (HEP):
        • Capacity: 720 MW
      • Under Construction HEPs:
        • Punatsangchhu–I HEP:
          • Capacity: 1200 MW
        • Punatsangchhu–II HEP:
          • Capacity: 1020 MW
        • In 2021, Bhutan exported electricity worth Rs. 2443 crores to India, highlighting the strong energy cooperation between the two countries.
      • Covishield Vaccines:
        • Bhutan was the first country to receive the Made in India Covishield vaccines as part of the Ministry of External Affairs Vaccine Maitri Initiative.
      • Gyalsung Project:
        • India is extending grant assistance of INR 2 billion to the Gyalsung Project, a visionary initiative of His Majesty the King of Bhutan.
        • The project aims to equip Bhutanese youth with critical skills to contribute to the nation-building efforts.
        • This assistance is in addition to India’s commitment of INR/Nu 50 billion for the 12th Five Year Plan.
        • An initial grant assistance of INR 1 billion was handed over to the Gyalsung Project at a special ceremony in February 2023.

Indo-Pacific Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA) initiative

(General Studies- Paper II)

Source : TH

Navy Chief Admiral R. Hari Kumar has emphasized India’s commitment to a free, open, inclusive, and rules-based Indo-Pacific region, highlighting the significance of security and stability in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

  • He also highlighted the announcing of the Indo-Pacific Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA) initiative by the QUAD grouping.


About Indo-Pacific Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA) Initiative

  • At the 2022 Quad Leaders’ Summit in Tokyo, the Quad Leaders announced the establishment of the Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA).
  • IPMDA is a technology and training initiative aimed at enhancing maritime domain awareness in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • Enhancing Maritime Domain Awareness:
    • IPMDA seeks to enhance existing maritime domain awareness capabilities in the Indo-Pacific region by providing partners with near real-time information on activities occurring in their maritime zones.
    • The initiative utilizes innovative technology, including commercial satellite radio frequency data collection, to offer a cutting-edge maritime domain awareness picture.
  • Benefits of IPMDA:
    • The enhanced maritime domain awareness provided under IPMDA supports Indo-Pacific partners in rapidly detecting and responding to a wide range of challenges, including illicit maritime activities such as illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, climate events, and humanitarian crises.
    • IPMDA is not limited to a single country but involves partners across Southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean region, and the Pacific.
    • The initiative also includes regional information centers, contributing to the establishment of a common operating picture of the maritime domain across the entire Indo-Pacific region.
  • Key Objectives:
    • The primary objectives of IPMDA are to enhance transparency in critical waterways, improve cooperation and coordination among Indo-Pacific partners, and address various maritime challenges effectively.


What is QUAD grouping?

  • The Quad, or the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, is a strategic forum comprising four major Indo-Pacific democracies: the United States, India, Japan, and Australia.
  • The Quad is an informal grouping aimed at addressing regional and global challenges, promoting security, stability, and economic growth in the Indo-Pacific region, and supporting a free, open, and rules-based international order.
  • The idea of the Quad, or the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, was first proposed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2007.
    • The initial attempt to establish the Quad involved Japan, the United States, Australia, and India.
    • However, Australia’s withdrawal from the dialogue, reportedly under Chinese pressure, led to the group’s inactivity for several years.
  • It was only in 2017 that the Quad was officially revived when India, Australia, the United States, and Japan came together to re-establish the “quadrilateral” coalition.
  • Since then, the Quad has gained momentum and played an active role in addressing regional and global challenges, with a focus on promoting a free, open, and rules-based Indo-Pacific.