- Poor access to abortion drugs
Why in news
Findings of the study carried out by the Foundation for Reproductive Health Services India (FRHSI) indicated a severe shortage of medical abortion (MA) drugs in five out of the six states surveyed.
Medical Abortion Drugs
- Abortion pills are different from emergency contraceptive pills. Abortion pills or MA drugs are abortafacients which terminate a pregnancy by expelling an embryo or foetus.
- Abortion pills are approved for use only up to nine weeks, whereas an ultrasound can detect a foetus only at around 13-14 weeks.
Shortage of abortion pills:
- The study found an overwhelming shortage of abortion pills or medical abortion drugs.
- The study conducted among 1,500 chemists in six States found abysmal stocking in Madhya Pradesh (6.5%), Punjab (1%), Tamil Nadu (2%), Haryana (2%) and Delhi (34%). The only State that seemed to be better was Assam (69.6%).
Reasons for shortage:
- Over-regulation of drugs to curb gender-biased sex selection such as through government programmes like ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ has hindered access to safe, legal and cost-effective abortion.
- Medical abortion drugs are over-regulated as compared to other prescription drugs.
- Regulatory hurdles are due to a misunderstanding that easy availability of medical abortion drugs will be misused for sex selection.
- State-wise regulatory and legal barriers are the key reasons why 79% of the chemists surveyed refrained from stocking these drugs.
- The regulatory crackdown has resulted in abortion services becoming inaccessible, especially those during the second trimester.
- The shortage forces many women to seek a surgical abortion from a facility, reducing her choice.
- It will also reduce access to safe abortion and force them to seek services from unsafe providers.
- There are only 16,296 approved abortion facilities in the private sector in the country. Whereas, MA drugs can be provided by an obstetrician or a gynaecologist, who are estimated to number about 60,000-70,000.
- The cost of first trimester surgical abortion is much higher than the cost of abortion pills plus the consultation fee.
- The law on abortions allows termination of pregnancy in the first nine weeks and in some cases even in the second trimester, such as in sexual assault cases as well as due to foetal anomalies.
- Therefore, these abortions are allowed under the Medical Termination Act.
- There is little ground for restricting MA drugs. Also, MA drugs are also cost-effective.
- During COVID-19, the lack of access to abortion services is likely to have worsened because:
- Travelling to a surgical facility is challenging Cost of the procedure may have gone up as clinics charge for PPE (personal protection equipment) It would require a mandatory COVID-19 test.
- Transparent Taxation – Honoring the Honest
Why in News
Recently, the Prime Minister of India launched the ‘Transparent Taxation – Honoring The Honest’ platform to honour the honest taxpayers of the country.
The Transparent Taxation Platform:
- It is aimed at bringing transparency in income tax systems and empowering taxpayers. The main features of the platform are faceless assessment, faceless appeal and taxpayer charter.
- The faceless assessment and taxpayer charter will come into place immediately from the launch, while the faceless appeal is going to be applicable from 25 September 2020.
- It aims to eliminate the interface between the taxpayer and the income tax department.
- There will be no need for the taxpayer to visit the income tax office or the officer.
- The selection of a taxpayer is possible through systems using analytics and Artificial Intelligence.
- Under the system, appeals will be randomly allotted to any officer in the country. The identity of the officer deciding the appeal will remain unknown.
- This outlines the rights and responsibilities of both tax officers and taxpayers.
Other Recent Direct Tax Reforms:
- The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has carried out several major tax reforms in direct taxes in recent years. The focus of the tax reforms has been on reduction in tax rates and on simplification of direct tax
- Corporate Tax rates were reduced from 30% to 22% in 2019. For new manufacturing units the corporate tax rates were reduced to 15%. Dividend Distribution Tax was also abolished in 2019.
- The CBDT has also taken several initiatives for bringing in efficiency and transparency in the functioning of the Income Tax (IT) Department, such as:
- Bringing more transparency in official communication through the newly introduced Document Identification Number (DIN) wherein every communication of the Department would carry a computer generated unique document identification number.
- Pre-filing income tax returns to increase the ease of compliance for taxpayers and to make compliance more convenient for individual taxpayers.
- Direct Tax Vivad se Vishwas Act, 2020 to provide for resolution of pending tax disputes.
Category: INTERNAL SECURITY
- Arunachal and Naga peace deal
Why in news
An apex students’ body All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU) has demanded that Arunachal Pradesh be kept out of the purview of the push for a solution to the Naga political problem.
- In a statement, the body has said that there are no Nagas in Arunachal Pradesh. All the tribes inhabiting the State are Arunachalees and Indians.
- It asserted that while the body would welcome the initiative for resolving the Naga issue, it would strongly oppose any attempts made to change the territorial jurisdiction of the State or any kind of administrative, political or other interventions.
- The demand comes in the backdrop of centre’s decision to conclude the talks with various Naga groups by September 2020.
- The largest of the Naga groups is the National Socialist Council of Nagalim or Isak-Muivah faction of the NSCN.
- Seven other stakeholders, including factions of the rival NSCN (Khaplang), form the Naga National Political Groups.
NSCN (IM)’s vision of Nagalim:
- Nagalim or Greater Nagaland is a long-term goal of the NSCN (IM). It encompasses Naga-inhabited areas of Myanmar and the north-eastern States bordering Nagaland.
- The Nagalim map the outfit released a few years ago includes Tirap, Changlang, Longding, Anjaw, Lohit and Namsai districts of Arunachal Pradesh.
- The central government had earlier rejected the NSCN-IM’s demand for unification of Naga inhabited areas located in Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam.
- NSCN (IM), peeved with interlocutor R.N. Ravi and has demanded that he be removed from the position.
- However, traditional tribal groups in Nagaland and some extremist groups are not on the same page as NSCN (IM).
- Naga Hoho, the apex body of 14 tribes and the Lotha (tribe) Hoho believes that replacing Mr. Ravi would delay the peace process and lead to endless negotiation while remaining in one’s comfort zone at the cost of peace and tranquility.
Category: SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
- IISER Bhopal scientists’ study on seed germination may lead to crop improvement
Why in news
- A team of researchers at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Bhopal, has conducted a study on seed germination that could have a major impact on agriculture in the long run by helping determine the optimum timing of seed germination and thus ensure high plant yields.
- The study focused on the interplay between:
- Plant hormones like Abscisic acid (ABA) which inhibit the sprouting of the seed, Environmental cues like light which promotes the sprouting process and Darkness
- The mechanisms underlying germination inhibition by ABA protein have been the subject of intensive research. There is scant knowledge about the mechanisms controlled by ABA for arresting the post-germination growth in response to environmental cues.
Abscisic acid (ABA)
- Abscisic acid is a plant hormone. It modulates plant growth and development. ABA functions in many plant developmental processes, including seed and bud dormancy, the control of organ size and stomatal closure.
- It acts as a master regulator of the seed’s growth by controlling several aspects of plant development, including seed dormancy and germination, as well as controlling growth under adverse conditions such as drought or salinity.
- ABA signals the seed not to germinate until there are favourable conditions for growth.
- If the stress comes after the germination of a seed, ABA suppresses further growth of the seedling. This inhibition leads the seedling to invest its energies less in its growth and more in defence mechanisms designed to ensure its survival.
- The research has proved that the inhibition of seedling growth by ABA is much stronger in darkness as compared to light conditions.
- Understanding the complex factors that modulate ABA sensitivity is vital to developing economically important plant varieties that have better tolerance to stress conditions.
- The results of the study are vital as they come at a time when frustrated farmers across Maharashtra have lodged thousands of complaints against seed companies, alleging them of having provided them with seeds that failed to germinate.
- ‘Mega labs’ to boost COVID-19 testing
Why in news
The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is working on developing mega labs to ramp up testing for COVID-19 as well as improve the accuracy rate.
- The labs will be repurposing large machines, called Next Generation Sequencing machines (NGS).
Next Generation Sequencing
- NGS – massively parallel or deep sequencing are related terms that describe a DNA sequencing technology which has revolutionised genomic research.
- NGS are normally used for sequencing human genomes. Using NGS an entire human genome can be sequenced within a single day.
- The mega labs will sequence 1,500 to 3,000 viral genomes at a go to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
- Used optimally and with appropriate modifications, these machines can substantially detect the presence of the virus even in several instances where the traditional RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) tests fail.
- The genome method can read a bigger chunk of virus genome and provide more certainty that the virus in question is indeed the particular coronavirus of interest. It can also trace the evolutionary history of the virus and track mutations more reliably.
- While RT-PCR needs primers and probes (a key hurdle in operationalizing such tests on a mass scale early on in the pandemic), the NGS only needs custom reagents.