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Waste management in Urban India- Is biomethanation the way out?

Urban waste management in India – is biomethanation the way out? 

Introduction

62 million tonnes of waste is generated annually in the country at present, out of which 5.6 million tonnes is plastic waste, 0.17 million tonnes is biomedical waste, hazardous waste generation is 7.90 million tonnes per annum and 15 lakh tonne is e-waste. Per capita waste generation in Indian cities ranges from 200 grams to 600 grams per day.

Collecting, processing, transporting and disposing this municipal solid waste (MSW) is the responsibility of urban local bodies (ULBs) in India.

Current waste management plans are created on the basis of a standardized model of flows of waste in Indian cities. This model fails to accurately reflect the situation on the ground in a number of important ways. As a result, attempts to address threats to the environment, health and livelihoods of local residents are being threatened, and opportunities for innovative solutions are being overlooked.

Patterns of urban consumption, and the waste generated, have changed rapidly. We now require sustainable urban waste management solutions which will simultaneously ad- dress environmental and social challenges, embrace oppor- tunities to reuse and recycle, engage with citizens and be responsive to changing circumstances.

What are the key concerns ? 

  • Inreality, wastes flowsand associated risks are far more complex than thought. The environmental health risks and social justice con- cerns exist throughout the waste chain.
  • More than three-fourths of the municipal budget on solid waste management goes into collection and transportation, which leaves very little for processing/resource recovery and disposal.
  • Privatisation does not replace the informal sector – new conflicts between formal and informal are created and opportunities overlooked.
  • Some waste streams – such as bio medical waste, e-waste, plastic waste, construction and demolition waste – need technical interventions which work best at larger scale because of the kind of technologies needed and the  regulation required to keep their operations within discharge and emission limits.
  • Multiple schemes for people’s participation in urban development decision-making have failed.
  • Environmental and social justice movements offer key insights into alternative waste management pathways – but are not supported to work together in constructive ways to develop sustainable waste management strategies.
  • Current policies and rules on urban waste suggest waste is seen solely as an environmental policy issue.Policies focus on specific aspects of the management of urban waste (collection, segregation, storage, treat- ment, and its disposal by different agencies), prescrib- ing standards for treatment and its disposal, regulation of these standards.

How does biomethanation help? 

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  • The biodegradable component of India’s municipal solid waste is currently estimated at a little over 50 per cent. Biomethanation offers a major solution for processing biodegradable waste. If only we were to segregate our biodegradable waste from the rest, this could reduce the dimensions of the challenge of solid waste management to half
  • Biomethanation is a process by which organic material is microbiologically converted under anaerobic conditions to biogas. Three main physiological groups of microorganisms are involved: fermenting bacteria, organic acid oxidizing bacteria, and methanogenic archaea.
  • Biogas is a mixture containing carbon dioxide and methane in varying proportions and a small quantity of hydrogen sulfide gas. Methane is a harmful gas if released in the environment as it is one of the four major gases responsible for global warming. But it is an excellent fuel.”
  • Notwithstanding their limited share in the total waste that needs processing, the decentralised plants have made a significant contribution in solid waste management of the city in so far as they use methane as a source of renewable energy to produce electricity which is used to power street lights in surrounding areas.
  • Not only do these plants provide a major energy saving from reduced transportation, but they also generate additional annual revenue of close to Rs 3 crore from electricity generation besides meeting their own demand for electricity.
  • But, it is too early to tell how much difference these new ventures of biomethanation will make.But, any solution will only work if we are able to segregate municipal solid waste at source. Reform must begin at home.

What else can be done ?

  • A productive start to containing the problem could be made if urban governments show the political will to rein in bulk generators of municipal solid waste.
  • For instance, the provisions in the new rules for hotels and restaurants to support composting, or biomethanation, and for large housing societies, commercial establishments and other bulk producers to segregate waste, need to be rigorously enforced.
  • Cess funds collected for the Swachh Bharat programme could be deployed to scale up infrastructure for composting, biomethanation and recycling.
  • Evidently, the Centre and the State governments have not so far taken the existing rules seriously: less than a third of the collected waste is being processed.
  • Even where environmentally conscious citizens segregate at source, the chain of management dumps it all in landfills.
  • The central monitoring committee under the Ministry should ensure that local bodies do not continue functioning in business-as-usual mode.
  • They should align their operations, including waste management contracts, with the new rules under the annual operating plan.
  • There is a need to incentivise small-decentralised projects supporting other local technologies as well as other ‘solutions’ for different stages of waste management. These can include community-led initiatives for implementation of waste management practices, economic incentives such as subsidizing compost and an incentive structure around the land needed.
  • The energy from waste is a crucial element of waste management because it reduces the volume of waste for disposal and also helps in converting the waste into renewable energy and organic manure. It is not necessarily the most efficient or most economical means of generating energy.
  • The Environment Ministry should also enlist the services of ragpickers under formal systems such as cooperatives. Although there are provisions for fines for littering and non-segregation, this should be a second-order priority for municipalities, which should focus principally on creating reliable systems to handle different waste streams.
  • There are multiple schemes of people’s participation in the process of policy formulation, project development and implementation. On the basis of 74th Amendment of the Constitution, the elected representative of the people (in the case of Delhi, the Municipal Councilor) is entitled to represent people’s voice in the process of policy formulation and implementation. However it has been observed that often the elected Municipal Councilor  after getting elected enjoys the power by overlook- ing its responsibilities. There should be a mechanism of making the elected representative accountable of its duties.
  • If India could start with the separation of its ‘wet’ waste from the rest and produce good compost, that could transform cities and towns into clean and green havens filled with trees, gardens, lakes and rivers.
  • It would also salvage millions of tonnes of recyclable plastic, precious metals and other materials.
  • Social incentives, such as encouraging people to separate their dry and wet waste at the source and buying compost and organic manures rather than inorganic fertilizers for kitchen garden, can help.
  • Garbology studies confirm that landfills swallow precious wealth every day. The time has come to recover it.

Conclusion

Several cities in India have successfully demonstrated that the challenges of solid waste management can be addressed through streamlining operational and contracting procedures, by involving the informal sector in waste management and making the community active partners in the process. It is necessary to document such initiatives to facilitate discussion and promote these ideas. Dissemination of innovative practices encourages city managers to adapt and evolve new ideas in the local context leading to more efficient and  effective urban governance and management.

Daily Current Affairs-9th December, 2016

 

 

Infrastructure for Testing Quality of Fertilizers
  • There are 81 Fertiliser Quality Control Laboratories (FQCLs) in the country with annual analyzing capacity of 1.67 lakh samples.
  • There is one fertiliser testing laboratory each in the States of Assam, Mizoram and Tripura. The annual analyzing capacity of laboratories in Assam and Tripura is of 500 samples each and in Mizoram is of 250 samples.
  • Under Soil Health Management (SHM) scheme of National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture, financial assistance @ Rs.75 lakh per lab for setting up of new FQCLs and @ Rs.30 lakh per lab for strengthening of FQCLs is provided to States based on their requirement.
  • Under the scheme, an amount of Rs.305.62 lakh for setting up of 6 new FQCLs and Rs.469.44 lakh for strengthening of 45 FQCLs has been released to States during 2014-15 to 2016-17.
MoU signed between Ministry of Water Resources, and Ganga Rejuvenation and Ministry of Agriculture
  • A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation and Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfares to promote organic clusters on the banks of Ganga in 5 Ganga basin States namely Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. It is proposed to cover 136 gram panchayats/villages under the programme.
  • The Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) programme components will be converged with Namami Ganga programme to implement the organic cluster in these Ganga basin States.
  • A financial assistance of 14.95 lakhs for 3 years shall provided per cluster towards organic farming practices and Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) of Certification. The components for which funding is made available is detailed is given below:

    i) Mobilization, PGS certification and training of farmers
    ii) Quality control: soil sample analysis, process documentation, inspection of fields of cluster members, residue analysis, PGS certification charges
    iii) Conversion practices: transition from current practices to organic farming, which includes procurement of organic inputs, organic seeds and traditional organic input production units and biological nitrogen harvest planting etc.
    iv) Integrated manure management: procurement of Liquid Bio fertilizer consortia/Bio pesticides, Neem cake, Phosphate Rich Organic Manure and Vermicompost.
    v) Custom hiring: to hire agricultural implements as per Sub Mission of Agricultural Mechanisation (SMAM) guidelines.
    vi) Labeling and Packaging Assistance.
    vii) Transport assistance and marketing through organic fairs.

Himachal Pradesh becomes 18th State to join UDAY
  • Government of India has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the State of Himachal Pradesh and the State DISCOM under the Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY), for operational and financial turnaround of the DISCOM.
  • Himachal Pradesh is the 18th State to sign MoU under UDAY.
  • An overall net benefit of approximately Rs. 823 crores would accrue to the State by opting to participate in UDAY, by way of savings in interest cost, reduction in Aggregate Technical and Commercial (AT&C) and transmission losses, interventions in energy efficiency etc. during the period of turnaround.
  • UDAY is an effort to make these DISCOMs financially and operationally healthy, to be able to supply adequate power at affordable rates, and enable the Governments to make efforts towards 100% Village electrification and 24X7 Power For All.
The Centre told the Supreme Court on Friday that judicial review of fiscal policy is “impermissible”.
  • Ultimately the scope of judicial review must be decided,” the government’s top law officer Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said.
  • A bench headed by Chief Justice T.S. Thakur was hearing a batch of petitions challenging the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) 8 November notification that scrapped Rs500 and Rs1,000 notes.
  • The government had sought a stay on various cases in the high courts against demonetisation. The court, however, said that it will frame broad questions on challenges to the demonetisation scheme and hear the case in detail.
  • Depending on the questions framed, the high courts can take a call whether to hear the cases or send them here instead,” the bench observed.
  • Rohatgi also told the court that over Rs11.5 trillion has come back to the system since 8 November and that the RBI has ushered more than Rs4 trillion in currency. “It has far exceeded our expectations,” he told the court
  • “The issue of district cooperative banks and cap on withdrawals has nothing to do with achieving the government’s motives for demonetization,” . The court asked Rohatgi to take instructions on granting interim relief.
  • The court also asked the government to consider fixing an assured minimum withdrawal limit in banks. “When you fixed the cap at Rs24,000 per week on your own, you must have checked if the system can take that burden, haven’t you?” the court asked the attorney general.
India’s IIP contracted by 1.9% in October
  • India’s factory output as measured by the index of industrial production (IIP) contracted by 1.9% in October after rising by 0.6% in September.
  • Economists expect the contraction to continue in the next few months as economic activity further slows down from November on account of the demonetisation of high value currency and the resultant cash shortage in the banking system.
  • Data released by the central statistics office showed that in October both mining and manufacturing contracted while electricity registered a positive growth.
  • While mining shrank by 1.1%, manufacturing contracted by 2.4% and electricity generation grew 1.1%. But worryingly, capital goods production—a key indicator of the investment demand in the economy–contracted for the twelfth consecutive month by 26% in the month.
  • Item wise classification shows that items like electrical machinery and apparatus and office accounting and computer machinery saw a sharp fall.
Supreme Court  said it is within the court’s jurisdiction to hear appeals against the 2007 Cauvery Tribunal award.
  •  “Appeals are maintainable, will be heard from 15 December,” the court said.
  • The court’s order indicates the start of another round of legal battle, perhaps the final one for the southern states over Cauvery water.
  • A bench comprising justices Dipak Misra, Amitava Roy and A.M. Khanwilkar also said that the interim order directing Karnataka to release 2,000 cusecs of Cauvery water everyday to Tamil Nadu will continue till further orders.
  • In October, the court had reserved its verdict after the Centre and Puducherry opposed the appeals saying that the Constitution expressly ousts the jurisdiction of the apex court in inter-state river water disputes.
  • In 2007, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala filed appeals against the verdict of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal. The award was notified by the government in 2013.
  • Karnataka had contested the final verdict of the disputes tribunal, arguing a major share of the water will go to Tamil Nadu, leaving almost six Karnataka districts, including Bengaluru, without enough water for drinking and farming.
  • Tamil Nadu’s claims are based on agreements executed between then governments of Mysore and Madras in 1892 and 1924, which the tribunal says cannot be held as “invalid”.

 

 

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Daily Current Affairs-8th December, 2016

 

Cabinet approves MoU between India and U.K. 
  • The Union Cabinet has given its approval to Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and United Kingdom (UK) to support Ease of Doing Business in India.
  • The MoU was signed between both countries earlier in November 2016 during the official state visit of UK Prime Minister Theresa May to India.
  • The MoU will facilitate exchange Government officials from both countries to facilitate sharing of best practises, technical assistance and enhanced implementation of reforms.
  • The beneficiaries include the officials from India will include Central Government Ministries / Departments and State Governments.
  • It will facilitate various agencies of UK government to offer professional courses on capacity-building of frontline inspectors, better regulation drafting for officials, sharing of best practises, etc.
  • The collaboration is expected to expedite adoption of innovative practises by the India leading to easing of regulatory environment in country and fostering of conducive business climate in India.
 Package for Promotion of Digital and Cashless Economy 
  • The Central Government Petroleum PSUs shall give incentive by offering a discount at the rate of 0.75% of the sale price to consumers on purchase of petrol/diesel if payment is made through digital means.
  • To expand digital payment infrastructure in rural areas, the Central Government through NABARD will extend financial support to eligible banks for deployment of 2 POS devices each in 1 Lakh villages with population of less than 10,000. These POS machines are intended to be deployed at primary cooperative societies/milk societies/agricultural input dealers to facilitate agri-related transactions through digital means.
  • The Central Government through NABARD will also support Rural Regional Banks and Cooperative Banks to issue “Rupay Kisan Cards” to 4.32 crore Kisan Credit Card holders to enable them to make digital transactions at POS machines/Micro ATMs/ATMs.
  • Railway through its sub urban railway network shall provide incentive by way of discount upto 0.5% to customers for monthly or seasonal tickets from January 1, 2017, if payment is made through digital means.
  • 5. All railway passengers buying online ticket shall be given free accidental insurance cover of upto Rs. 10 lakh.
  • For paid services e.g. catering, accommodation, retiring rooms etc. being offered by railways through its affiliated entities/corporations to the passengers, it will provide a discount of 5% for payment of these services through digital means.
  • Public sector insurance companies will provide incentive, by way of discount or credit, upto 10% of the premium in general insurance policies and 8% in new life policies of Life Insurance Corporation sold through the customer portals, in case payment is made through digital means.
  • The Central Government Departments and Central Public Sector Undertakings will ensure that transactions fee/MDR charges associated with payment through digital means shall not be passed on to the consumers and all such expenses shall be borne by them.
  • State Governments are being advised that the State Governments and its organizations should also consider to absorb the transaction fee/MDR charges related to digital payment to them and consumer should not be asked to bear it.
  • Public sector banks are advised that merchant should not be required to pay more than Rs. 100 per month as monthly rental for PoS terminals/Micro ATMs/mobile POS from the merchants to bring small merchant on board the digital payment eco system.
  • For the payment of toll at Toll Plazas on National Highways using RFID card/Fast Tags, a discount of 10% will be available to users in the year 2016-17.
  • No service tax will be charged on digital transaction charges/MDR for transactions upto Rs.2000 per transaction.
DST-Intel Collaborative Research for Real-Time River Water and Air Quality Monitoring
  • Recognizing the importance of developing the online River Water and Air Quality Monitoring (WAQM) systems, Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India and Intel are collaborating to jointly initiate “DST-Intel Collaborative Research for Real-Time River Water and Air Quality Monitoring” soliciting proposals from Academic/Research Institutions and providing grant-in-aid support to the selected project(s).
  • This programme is very critical for the restoration, conservation and preservation of the environment. 
  • At the core of any initiative, we see the role of Science and Technology everywhere….”.
  • The aim of this initiative is to develop key technologies for sensing, communication and analysis of large-scale data collected from autonomous networks of perpetual/long-lived sensor nodes, followed by integration and deployment for water and air quality monitoring in real-time.
  • The program will be administered by the binational Indo-U.S. Science and Technology Forum (IUSSTF). River systems have been the birthplace of civilizations all over the world. They are woven into the social and economic fabric of society and penetrate deep into the psyche of the people living around them.
  • Nowhere is this more evident than in India where the Ganga, Indus, Narmada and other rivers possess the cultural identity transmitted down the ages through sacred literature, the Puranas and the Vedas, as well as through popular myths and legends
  • The Ganga is the largest and the most important river of India, with its watershed covering 10 Indian states, namely Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi. The river Ganga (commonly called as Bhagirathi in the stretch Gangotri to Devprayag and Hubli in the stretch Farakka to Ganga Sagar) occupies a unique position in the ethos of people of India.
  • Discharge of untreated sewage from urban centres is a major cause of water quality degradation in the river.
  • Air pollution is another emerging public health concern as there is increasing amount of evidence that the quality of air significantly affects our health due to the presence of various toxic pollutants. Linking air pollution from source to adverse human health effects is a complicated phenomenon that requires a multidisciplinary approach for better understanding.
  • Further, air quality networks need to be developed that can depict and forecast pollution levels for public with health advisories and pollution emergencies measure. It is well known that increasing levels of air pollution are linked with more illness, higher use of health services, and premature death among the exposed population groups.
  • Further, both Household Air Pollution (HAP) and Outdoor Air Pollution (OAP) have reported to have largely detrimental effects on the quality of life.

The recent report of Global Burden of Disease (GBD) has ranked air pollution among the top ten killers in the world, and as the sixth largest killer in South Asia. In a study by UNEP-WHO, it was estimated that about 6.3 million deaths worldwide are caused by air pollution, out of which 3.3 million are due to OAP and 3.5 million due to HAP. There is increasing amount of evidence that the quality of air significantly affects our health due to the presence of various toxic pollutants and therefore air pollution is emerging as a major public health issue. GBD also estimated that air pollution causes 6,20,000 deaths everyyear making it the 5th leading cause of mortality in India.

The development of such an end-to-end solution comprising of several individual research elements can also potentially impact environmental quality monitoring systems in diverse contexts such as urban, domestic and industrial settings.

 

MoU between India and Afghanistan 
  • The Union Cabinet has approved Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Afghanistan on cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.
  • The MoU envisages cooperation between both countries for application of space technologies in various sectors. It will cover agriculture, education, weather forecasting, rural health, telecommunications, urban development, sanitation, resource mapping navigation, remote sensing and any other areas mutually agreed upon.
  • It will help develop space sector in Afghanistan and making it self-reliant in space sector Burnish India’s credentials as a nation with advanced space technology which can assist other countries.
  • Deepen bilateral ties and mutual understanding and trust between both countries.
  • Provide India foothold in Afghanistan’s strategic space and communication sector.
  • Boost high-tech jobs in both countries in both core Science & Technology and R&D fields, and also the field of implementation.

 

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Daily Current Affairs-7th December, 2016

 

Daily Current Affairs-7th December, 2016
Union cabinet approves MoU between idnia and Vietnam, on cooperation in IT
  • The Union Cabinet has approved Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Vietnam on Cooperation in the field of Information Technology.
  • The MoU aims to develop sustainable and a long-term cooperation between both countries on the basis of equality and mutual interest in the areas of IT.
  • The MoU will be implemented by establishing a Joint Working Group on IT having representatives from both the countries.
  • It will remain in force for a period of 5 years and will be renewable by mutual written consent between India and Vietnam.
  • Its implementation will result in institutional and capacity-building in the field of IT and Human Resource Development, mutually benefiting IT sector of both countries.
Allahabad High Court- practice of triple talaq (Talaq-e-bidat) among Muslims is unconstitutional
  • The Allahabad High Court has ruled that the practice of triple talaq (Talaq-e-bidat) among Muslims is unconstitutional and violates the rights of women enshrined in constitution.
  • The order was passed by HC Justice Suneet Kumar while hearing a petition filed by a woman who claimed her husband arbitrarily divorced her.
  • Besides, the High Court also held that No Personal Law Board is above the Constitution .
  •  Talaq-e-bidat is Muslim man divorcing his wife unilaterally by pronouncing the word ‘talaq’ thrice in one go. Thus, it is oral talaq pronounced for irrevocable instantaneous divorce at one go.
  • Many activists say that this practice is not of Islamic origin.
  • AIMPLB, a non-government organisation always has held that Talaq-e-bidat is integral part of Muslims and courts have no role to play in Personal Law as it falls under the Fundamental Right to practice religion.
  • Even, the National Commission of Women (NCW) considers it “highly misused” custom and asked Government to scrap it to protect the rights of Muslim women.
  • Why triple talaq should be abolished? The practice of ‘triple talaq’ has enabled husbands to divorce their wives arbitrarily and unilaterally, devoid of any substantiation. It impact adversely on the rights of women to a life of dignity. It also has been abolished in 21 Islamic theocratic countries including Pakistan.
  • It is also against constitutional principles such as gender equality, secularism, international laws etc. Thus, it must be kept in mind that gender equality is a sacred principle of our constitution and modern society. So it is right time to make necessary changes.
  • Recently Central Government in its affidavit submitted to Supreme Court held that the practice of Triple talaq is against the principles of gender equality, gender justice and dignity enshrined in the Constitution. It is not integral to the right to freedom of religion. It violates right to equality, non-discrimination on the grounds of sex and the right to live with dignity to women in par with men guaranteed in the Constitution.

 

English the most powerful language in the world in 2016- World Power Language Index 
  • English has been ranked first in the top 10 most powerful languages in the world according to the 2016 World Power Language Index (PLI).
  • The index was published by World Economic Forum (WEF).
  • Indian language Hindi was ranked 10th in the 2016 PLI.
  • According to the index there are over 6,000 languages spoken in the world. Of these 2,000 count fewer than 1,000 speakers. Moreover, just 15 languages account for half of the languages spoken in the world.
  • English is dominant language of 3 G7 nations (USA, UK and Canada). Top 10 Languages in 2016 PLI: English (1st), Mandarin (2nd), French (3rd), Spanish (4th), Arabic (5th), Russian (6th), German (7th), Japanese (8th), Portuguese (9th) and Hindi (10th).
  • The top six languages are official languages of the United Nations.
  • The remaining 4 in the top 10 include two other BRIC languages (Portuguese and Hindi) and 2 of the economic heavyweights (Germany and Japan).
Government waves service tax while making payment through payment cards, up to ₹2000
  • Government waives service tax charged while making payments through credit card, debit card, charge card or any other payment card; waiver limited to payments up to Rs. 2,000 in a single transaction.
  • When a customer uses a credit card, debit card, charge card or any other payment card for payment of his purchase of goods or services, the merchant/service establishment is charged certain merchant discount rate (MDR) by credit card or debit card issuing banks.
  • With a view to promote digital transactions and encourage merchant establishments to accept such card payments, Government has waived service tax on such amount charged while making payments though credit card, debit card, charge card or any other payment card.
  • However, this waiver is limited to payments upto two thousand rupees only (Rs.2000) in a single transaction.
SC seeks Parliamentary panel report on Lokpal amendments
  • The Supreme Court has asked the Centre to place before it a copy of the report of a Parliamentary standing committee suggesting amendments to the Lokpal law.
  • The court is hearing a petition filed by NGO Common Cause which has sought a direction to the Centre to make the appointment of chairperson and members of Lokpal as per the amended rules framed under Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013.
  • The NGO in its plea has also sought a direction to the Centre to ensure that the procedure for selecting the chairperson and members of Lokpal must be transparent as envisaged under the Act.
  • According to the NGO, the inaction of the government in making the appointment of Lokpal is arbitrary and unreasonable and hence violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.

More about the issue :

The appointment of anti-corruption ombudsman is hanging in balance since the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, which received Presidential assent on January 1, 2014 because the legislation provides for the LoP to be on the selection committee, but in the present Lok Sabha the largest opposition party does not have the required number of MPs for its leader to be designated as Leader of Opposition.

Asian buyers forum should counter OPEC clout
  • Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan has mooted the idea of a large Asian LNG buyers forum to negotiate more equitable trade deals and balance the influence of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

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  • This assumes significance in light of the ongoing increase in oil prices resulting in an adverse impact on the Indian exchequer and the government’s commitment to move towards a gas-based economy.
  • A number of large Asian LNG buyers, including India, could benefit by joining hands and thereby, possibly, bring in more equitable trade deals.

Today a large number of LNG deals are linked to oil prices. Asian LNG buyers pay higher rates since there is no LNG hub in Asia and there is no unity among consumers. So, there is a need to co

 

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Telemedicine in India

 Telemedicine in India

Introduction

Telemedicine is the use of electronic information to communicate technologies to provide and support healthcare when distance separates the participants. Although initially considered “futuristic” and “experimental,” telemedicine is today a reality and has come to stay.

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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) played an important part in the early development of telemedicine. NASA’s efforts in telemedicine began in the early 1960s when humans began flying in space. Physiological parameters were transmitted from both the spacecraft and the space suits during missions

Telemedicine has a variety of applications in patient care, education, research, administration and public health. Worldwide, people living in rural and remote areas struggle to access timely, good-quality specialty medical care. Residents of these areas often have substandard access to specialty healthcare, primarily because specialist physicians are more likely to be located in areas of concentrated urban population. Telemedicine has the potential to bridge this distance and facilitate healthcare in these remote areas.

Uses of telemedicine

Information technology and telemedicine can be used to inform, influence and motivate individuals and population organizations on health, health-related issues and adoption of healthy lifestyles. The various approaches and applications can advance and support primary, secondary and tertiary health promotion and disease prevention agendas.

  • It can relay information to individuals as well as to the population as a whole. It can provide an easy access to those living in remote areas.
  • It enables informed decision-making. It also simplifies the health decision-making process / or communication between healthcare providers and individuals regarding prevention, diagnosis or management of a health condition. As a result, the users are exposed to a broader choice base.
  • It can go a long way to promote and maintain healthy behaviours in the community.
  • It can also help in peer information exchange and emotional support. Examples include online Internet applications that enable individuals with specific health conditions, needs or issues to communicate with each other, share information and provide / receive emotional support.
  • It promotes self-care and domiciliary care practices. Many living in the remote areas can be benefited by self-management of health problems which will supplement existing health care services.
  • It can be a very important tool for the evaluation and monitoring of healthcare services.

How is it faring in India

The Apollo group of hospitals was a pioneer in starting a pilot project at a secondary level hospital in a village called Aragonda 16 km from Chitoor  in Andhra Pradesh. Starting from simple web cameras and ISDN telephone lines today, the village hospital has a state-of-the-art videoconferencing system and a VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) satellite installed by ISRO. India’s telemedicine market, which has been growing at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of over 20 per cent, holds the potential to cross $ 32 million mark by 2020 from the current level of over $ 15 million, according to an Assocham’s  study.

  • Private hospitals like Apollo, Narayana and Fortis have been working on remote healthcare delivery for years. But now startups are entering this field to provide state of the art technology.
  • They have realised that women in rural areas are the ones with least access to healthcare. They have made their focus on this work.
  • From advice on understanding sexually transmitted diseases and handling unwanted pregnancies to dealing with breast cancer and depression, startups are using telemedicine to provide rural women a gateway to access professional medical help.
  • Apps have the advantage of providing doctors round the clock, at the other end of one’s smartphone.
  • Apps give them anytime access as doctors aren’t easy to contact outside business hours.
  • Startups link specialists in metros with patients in rural areas. “Doctors who want to be a part of social welfare initiatives but don’t have the time for health camps find this an effective way to reach out to the underserved.
  • In the city, doctors usually charge between Rs 500 and Rs 600 per consultation, but lower their rates to Rs 150-Rs 200 per consultation online.

SEHAT Initiative- integrating digital India and telemedicine 

Sehat is short for Social Endeavour for Health and Telemedicine.

  • The government in 2015 launched a pan-India health initiative called Sehat in line with its Digital India vision. The initiative, which will be run in collaboration with Apollo Hospitals, aims to connect 60,000 common service centres across the country and provide healthcare access to citizens irrespective of their geographical location.
  • The flagship Digital India initiative is an umbrella programme that seeks to build digital infrastructure, provide government service on the web and mobile platforms and digitally empower all the citizens with an estimated investment of Rs.1.13 trillion over the next three to five years.
  • One of the targets of Digital India is to connect all the villages at the panchayat level through some 250,000 common service centres that will act as access points for delivery of various government services to citizens.

Concluding Remarks

India, with its diverse landmass and huge population, is an ideal setting for telemedicine. With its large medical and IT manpower and expertise in these areas, India holds great promise and has emerged as a leader in the field of telemedicine.

Growth of a sustainable telemedicine network in India depends upon introduction of legal frameworks, development of national e-health policies, trained human resource and regular funding. Improved access to specialists, increased patient satisfaction with care, improved clinical outcomes, reduction in emergency room utilisation, cost savings are certain key benefits of telemedicine.

“There is a shortage of about 32 per cent in terms of the number of CHCs in India at present while there is 23 per cent shortage of PHCs in the country,”.Amid states, it is Jharkhand, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh face maximum shortage to the extent of 66 per cent, 58 per cent and 42 per cent in terms of PHCs. While Bihar (91 per cent), Andhra Pradesh (united) and Karnataka (41 per cent) are facing highest shortfall in terms of required number of CHCs.

Late discovery of ailments, lack of experience in healthcare providers in rural areas and huge amount of time being spent in reaching urban health facilities make rural populace more vulnerable than their urban counterparts.As such there is an urgent need for speeding up the process of building up healthcare infrastructure capacities especially in the rural areas.

This could also been looked upon as an unexplored opportunity by private healthcare industry, here telemedicine has an important role to play by offering the possibility for remote diagnostics as technology will extend the reach of healthcare services and ease the pressure on overburdened systems,.

Efforts need to be made to create an overarching framework covering three levels namely – primary healthcare centres (PHC) to district, district to referral/super speciality hospitals and issues vis-a-vis hardware/software requirements, bandwidth and connectivity need to be fixed.